Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review - Hello, Dolly

Hello, Dolly is one of the first musicals I ever saw - we did it at my high school and I remember thinking the show was good, but our cast maybe wasn't.  I was a mean critic even then.  I worked on a production in grad school, but I honestly don't think I've seen the stage show in 30 years.  I've seen the movie over the years, of course, so that's what I have in my mind now when I think of Hello, Dolly.  When Bette Midler was announced for the current production, I was excited to see it, but was quickly priced out.  I never made it there - I often thought about going to see Donna Murphy do the show, but never made it to see her, either.  My loss.  But when a friend texted me saying she had an offer for inexpensive balcony tickets to see Bernadette Peters do the show (alongside Victor Garber), I jumped at the chance.  So last night I went with two dear old college chums to bask in the glow of an old-fashioned musical.

And bask we did.  I had a smile on my face nearly the entire evening.  What a fun night!  It seemed to me that the cast was having a blast and the audience was, too.  It was really a love fest - there was a lot of whooping and hollering for Bernadette, which was totally deserved, in my opinion.  The whole show seems to have been put together with a lot of verve and love and fun, from the costumes to the choreography to the direction.  Everything just worked together beautifully to give everyone there the best time.

photo credit:  Julieta Cervantes
I thought Bernadette was terrific, giving a wonderful musical comedy star performance, with double-takes and glances out to the audience.  She was generous and open with the other performers and seemed to get as much of a kick out of their performances as we did.  Her singing sounded great and her monologues to her late husband were truly wonderful - she is so grounded and real, while at the same time larger-than-life and theatrical.  She just lights up the stage (and looks spectacular in those costumes!  She must have a portrait in her attic because she looks amazing!) and twinkles for three hours.  I really really loved her.  Oh, and her dancing was great, too!

I'm a longtime fan of Victor Garber, he's one of my absolute favorite actors, so it's hard for me to be objective but...I loved him!  (of course I did.)  I thought he was gruff and funny, charming and rough-edged, and you could really see, in the last scene, where Dolly and Horace suddenly realize this isn't about money at all.  They had a very touching chemistry and a lovely connection.  His second act-opener, "Penny in My Pocket," was a real delight.  I think that he and Bernadette are still finding their way into sharp comic timing a little bit, especially in the Harmonia Gardens scene, but they are already so good, it's silly to quibble.

photo credit: Julieta Cervantes
Kate Baldwin and Gavin Creel were really sublime as Irene and Cornelius ("Ribbons Down My Back" was a beautiful stand-out to me), and Molly Griggs and Charlie Stemp are stars-to-be as Minnie Fay and Barnaby.  The four of them together were simply wonderful and radiated such joy.  They were all quirky and interesting, yet sang beautifully.  And Charlie Stemp's dancing is simply marvelous!  He had little solo pieces here and there and watching him was just a treat.  Oh, and Jennifer Simard as Ernestina Money?  Hysterical.

After seeing the movie so many times, it was nice to hear the original songs from the score, instead of the songs inserted into the movie.  The orchestra played the lively music beautifully and the ensemble sounded great as well.  It was honestly just a lovely night.  I'm SO glad I went, especially with my dear friends.  I just had the best time.

Of course, there were seat neighbor issues.  Hello.  I was happy to have the discounted seats in the balcony, and the sightlines were mainly fine, but the rows are really close together!  My chums had a rough time up there with the non-existent leg room, though my short legs weren't in as much pain, thankfully.  There were the leaners, of course, who then made the view harder for anyone behind them, but I was again pretty fortunate that the seat in front of me was empty and there weren't as many leaners in front of me.

Speaking of the empty seat in front of me:  shortly before showtime, a full-figured gentleman, singing the title song, stumbled into his seat.  Shall we just say he had a hard time fitting into his seat and leave it at that?  I would've left it at that and wouldn't have bothered to write about him, but he kept talking to the woman next to him, whose English didn't appear to be fluent.  He kept singing "Hello, lady" to her until he then asked her to please get her arm off his armrest.  I mean, I understand that he was probably uncomfortable to the max, because he was pretty full-figured, but you don't tell someone to get their arm off the armrest!  She did, but then he stood up and stumbled back out into the aisle.  He decided he was going to sit in one of the accessible seats in the back.  I was the tiniest bit relieved that he moved - not only for the empty space in front of me, but I was also afraid he would be a sing-a-longer.  I promptly forgot about him during the joyful first act, then at intermission, one of my dear friends pointed out that the full-figured gent had moved himself down to a box seat!  He was getting closer, and more alone, by the minute!  We figured he would be on-stage for the curtain call, if the ushers weren't careful.

Speaking of the ushers: they were certainly kept busy, running up and down the aisles, to try to stop people from videotaping the performance on their phones.  I could see a woman a few rows in front of me videoing the opening number, but the usher came right down and flashed his flashlight in her eyes, to get her to stop.  He had to come down a few times because I guess she was determined to video.  But there were several people who got 'flashed' by ushers to stop their taping.  What is the matter with people?!  Isn't it enough you get to see the show but you have to 1) ruin the experience for yourself because you're not really seeing it, and 2) ruin the experience for everyone around you because the light from your phone is annoying!  Grrrr.  Good thing the show was a bundle of fun and made me forget my troubles and I floated away on a cloud of musical theater happiness.  What's the line from 42nd Street?   "I'm talking about musical comedy, the two most glorious words in the English language!"  Yeah, I can see that.  Last night, I certainly agreed.  Of course, "free pizza" are also two glorious words.  Your mileage may vary.  :)

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