Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Musical Theater Review: "Hello, Dolly!"

Few shows can touch the golden age majesty and spectacle of "Hello, Dolly!" Overwhelming the stage with brilliant dancers executing grand-scale numbers while accompanied by the thunderous accompaniment of a live orchestra, the production hammers the audience with one show-stopping stunner after another.

The challenge is to manufacture ways to keep an antiquated production relevant while staying true to the fabric of what lifted it to its legendary status in the first place.

Billed on promotional materials as "Broadway's Greatest Musical," the show has a lot to live up to. The 1964 show has been a staple for ages, and continues to thrive in revivals.

The production, spearheaded by director Jerry Zaks' creative use of screens that whisk the setting from place to place with instantaneous ease, is spellbinding. The cutting-edge tech melds seamlessly with the classical accoutrements to craft a shimmering example of how to modernize classic musical theater without ruining it.

The acting -- broad and exaggerated to the extreme -- may not fare quite as well, but the performances thrive where it counts the most. The show thoroughly belongs to lead Carolee Carmello, a three-time Tony nominee who owns the title role with magnetic gusto.

Dolly is a dynamic woman of a certain age who romps through 1860s Yonkers with a breezy, overbearing obliviousness, manipulating the satellite characters to her whims. John Bolton is a lovably cranky foil as Horace Vandergelder, a "half-millionaire" who plays the hapless dupe to Dolly's grandiose designs.

As excellent as the two leads are, they are sidelined for the show's most remarkable sequence, in which a team of high-stepping waiters pulls of meticulously coordinated routines that deliver gasp after gasp. The transcendent choreography drew riotous cheers that could match anything coming from McKale Center a few blocks away.

While the creaky old show may show some cracks, "Hello, Dolly!" remains vibrant, relevant and energetic. It's not time to say goodbye to the old standby just yet.

"Hello, Dolly!" plays through Sunday at Centennial Hall. To buy tickets, click here.

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