Though we lost the great Carol Channing this year, her signature role as Dolly Levi in the “Hello, Dolly!” is now in the very capable hands of another entertainment legend and Tony Award®-winner, Betty Buckley (“Cats”). Though she has also mastered film and television, theater is Buckley’s true home. The national tour of the four-time, 2017 Tony-winner (including Best Revival of a Musical) is currently running at the Kennedy Center. It is as glorious as a Broadway musical can be.
This enduring classic, under the vibrant direction of another theater legend, Jerry Zacks, is the start of an incredible summer of musicals at the Kennedy Center. It is safe to say that “Hello, Dolly!” is one of the most beloved shows ever produced. For 37 years it held the record for winning the most Tony Awards (10) in 1964. The musical was made into an Academy Award®-winning film in 1969, directed by Gene Kelly starring the too young, but fabulous, Barbra Streisand. In turn, the film was featured in the 2008 animated film “WALL-E” (which also garnered multiple awards) about the lonely and lovelorn robot left on earth to compact trash. His prized treasure is a VHS copy of “Hello, Dolly!”
It is as glorious as a Broadway musical can be.
The musical is based on the Thorton Wilder play, “The Matchmaker.” It centers on Dolly Gallagher Levi, a vivacious, matchmaking widow living in the late 1800s. Dolly has decided to set her sights on her current client, the cranky “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (veteran actor Lewis J. Stadlen) of Yonkers, New York. While pretending to set up him with the lovely hat shop owner and widow, Irene Malloy (Analisa Leaming), Dolly’s schemes turn into a hilarious journey in the best vaudevillian tradition. Along the way, she contrives to help the young artist Ambrose Kemper (Colin LeMoine) and Horace’s niece Ermengarde (Morgan Kirner) convince Horace to consent to their marriage. Dolly also brings Horace’s inexperienced and naïve clerks, Cornelius Hackl (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns) together with Irene and her shop assistant, Minnie Fay (Kristen Hahn) for adventure and love in New York City.
The entire cast and ensemble are perfection in show-stopping fashion, eliciting thunderous applause and standing ovations. Betty Buckley is a gem – full of energy and heart, with brilliant comic timing. She brings the audience into her embrace. Buckley is such a nuanced actor, even with broad comedy, that you can’t help but fall in love with her. Her voice is still strong as ever and she can step in high style.
The lyrics and music by Jerry Herman are still pure gold – “It Takes A Woman,” “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” “Ribbons Down My Back,” “Elegance,” “It Only Takes a Moment” and “Hello, Dolly!”
The dance sequences are a glowing tribute to a titan of Broadway, original director and choreographer, Gower Champion, with the support of associate choreographer, Sara Edwards.
Every detail of the production is a testament to the many talents of the entire production team. There are not enough adjectives to describe the breathtaking work of Santo Loquasto. The sets and costumes are a visual feast of color and detail.
It may be considered old-fashioned with a neat, happy ending, but this production of “Hello, Dolly!” is a joyous celebration of the finest Broadway tradition and talent – and perfect for the entire family.
Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours with a 20-minute intermission.
“Hello, Dolly!” runs through July 7, 2019, at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566. For tickets call, 800.444.1324 or go online.