The Broadway touring company of “Hello, Dolly!” burst onto the Aronoff Center’s stage like a shiny holiday bauble. Elegant and giddy as a glass of champagne, this heady pre-holiday cocktail is full of shine and sparkle. It only takes a moment to fall in love with “Hello, Dolly!”
Based on the play by Thornton Wilder, this musical
classic first hit Broadway in 1964. Since then, there have been many memorable casts.
This version won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
Suffused with warmth and wit, the thoughtful story about hope, redemption and living life to its fullest is wrapped in a gorgeous, glittering package of enchanting characters, physical comedy and energetic musical numbers.
Led by the irrepressible Dolly Gallagher Levi (Carolee Carmello), this production gleams with comic moments. The match-making Dolly makes her way in the world by arranging things: bringing couples together, teaching dance, providing financial advice and “putting her hand in there.” Through her private, poignant conversations with her deceased husband, Ephraim, we get a glimpse of Dolly and her gutsy character that grounds the show with real heart.
Set in 1885, the plot follows Dolly as she sets about marrying Horace Vandergelder, the Yonkers-based, well-known half-a-millionaire and Hay Feed store owner, so she can do some good with his money. Delivering a spicy performance as Horace Vandergelder, John Bolton is delightfully and equally matched to Carmello’s Dolly Levi. Vandergelder’s love of cash brings a gleam to his eye as shiny as a lucky penny. There are delightful bits where Dolly catches that gleam.
After Vandergelder heads off to New York, his clerks sneak off to do the same. Enthusiastic and energetic Cornelius Hackl (Daniel Beeman) throws off the restrictions of life in Yonkers, leading junior clerk, Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns), off to New York for adventure. Declaring they won’t come back until they’ve each kissed a girl, they head straight into a series of charming and fun-filled misadventures.
Chock-full of characters determined to live life to its fullest, we meet Vandergelder’s teenage niece Ermengarde (Laura Sky Herman) and her desperate beau, Ambrose Kemper (Colin LeMoine); the charming and sassy Irene Malloy (Analisa Leaming); and her adorable and naïve assistant, Minnie Fay (Chelsea Cree Groen). The chorus and other characters help build this show’s world from Yonkers to New York’s 14th Street. Characters sometimes speak directly to the audience, so we’re brought into the world of the play with humor and a wink of the eye.
Conductor Ben Whiteley leads an orchestra, which includes Cincinnati musicians, that earned applause throughout the show, starting with the overture. The cast sings with excellent articulation and harmonies that will make you want to hum along. Executing creative choreography with precision and grace, the chorus is at the heart of show-stopping moments from “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” to the “Waiter’s Gallop.” The male members of the chorus were used to hilarious effect in “It Takes a Woman.” And I must do a special call-out for the dancer who flawlessly completed a stunning series of Fouetté turns during “Dancing.”
As glittering as the rhinestones on Dolly’s big red dress, the production takes full advantage of all that the P&G stage has to offer. Sumptuous painted backdrops and gorgeous lighting design lay an eye-pleasing setting for lively choreography, beautiful costumes and performers that wow. Costumes so finely designed as to include shimmering rhinestone earrings for Irene Mallone give a glimpse of her determination to leave the millinery business go out and get a life.
Even the scene changes are spectacularly staged.
With one delightful song and dance number after another, you’ll enjoy the show as much as Dolly enjoys her dinner at Harmonia Gardens. Don’t let this parade pass you by. No matter the day, put on your Sunday clothes and head to the Aronoff for this gem.
Kari E. McLean is a returning wanderer getting reacquainted with the area and its exemplary arts programming. An theatre aficionado, a coffee addict, and a Fiona fan, she keeps turning up in spots all over the Tri-State like a good penny.