At a recent New York getaway we decided to take in the Broadway revival of Hello Dolly! I was a little worried that at 54 years old, the play about turn of the century matchmaker Dolly Levy might not translate well for a 2018 audience; but it was an opportunity to see Bernadette Peters who has taken over the lead role from Bette Midler and that clinched it for me. The play may be an oldie but it was a spectacular treat for the eyes and ears. The show was interrupted minutes after its beginning as Miss Peters, who is acknowledged as Broadway royalty, was greeted by sustained applause as she made her first appearance. She is one of the most critically acclaimed Broadway performers, having received nominations for seven Tony Awards, winning two (plus an honorary award), and nine Drama Desk Awards, winning three. Four of the Broadway cast albums on which she has starred have won Grammy Awards. Just turned 70, she skipped around the stage like a teenager. Santo Loquasto won the Tony for the eye-popping costumes as well as for the amazing sets that effortlessly rolled on and off the stage through fifteen scene changes.
The original play was directed and choreographed by Gower Champion whose name is associated with some of the greatest musicals in Broadway history, and choreographer Warren Carlyle showed why he is a Tony winner in his own right. The dance numbers ranged from strut, choreographed excitement, light modern, waltz, parade, “Elegance” walk, modern jazz, polka, through to Cossack dancing waiters balancing huge piles of dishes as they danced.
London, Ontario-born Victor Garber was warmly received in his lead role as Horace Vandergelder, the miserly storekeeper from Yonkers. Garber is a versatile performer who in addition to his several Tony nominations has won numerous Emmy nominations for his TV work, and has been in blockbuster movies like Titanic and Sleepless in Seattle.
The critics have praised the Bernadette Peters version of Dolly as more nuanced than the over-the-top version of Ms. Midler acknowledging that they are both great however. If you want to see Peters, she will continue in the role until July 15th at which time the Divine Miss M will return to close out the show at summer’s end. At the end of the performance that we attended the audience was literally roaring. It was the loudest and longest ovation I have heard in decades of theatre-going.