Review: Hello, Dolly! on Broadway with Bette Midler3 min read

Hello Dolly!: Bette-cha Gonna Love This!



Well, Hello, Bette! It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.  And Bette, you certainly do belong on the Broadway stage in this classic musical. It is as exacting of a fit as you can find for the Divine Miss M.

It seems that when Jerry Herman (book and lyrics) and Michael Stewart (book) wrote Hello, Dolly! back in 1964, based on the 1938 Thornton Wilder farce called The Merchant of Yonkers (revised and retitled as The Matchmaker 17 years later), they must of unknowingly written the starring role, not just for Ethel Merman (who actually turned the part down, as did Mary Martin), but also for Bette Milder to conquer Broadway 53 years later.

It’s one of the most perfect role/show matches made in Broadway casting heaven. Bette dominates this musical and the stage with an ease and a flick of the wrist that will forever be remembered in the Broadway history books. Not just for the box office record breaking totals being created, but for so much more.

She grabs the spotlight from the moment she makes her first appearance to her last bow, exciting the audience into a mid-show standing ovation after the title song, and to wild laughter and applause for every quick witted joke and sly smile that emanates from her wee frame.

She is creating something legendary on that stage, not revolutionary I will add, but this old fashioned show would be hard pressed to do that.  But she does manage to supersede decades of memories of the original Dolly Gallagher Levi, the Tony winning icon, Carol Channing (click here for a video of her singing the most famous song from this show), with the joyous opening number, “I Put My Hand In” and each and every moment there after. Her performance will sit right along side Channing on that mantle that all others will be compared to in future productions.

The Band’s Glorious (Re) Visit to Bet Haatikva and My Heart.
Hello, Dolly!
Hello, Dolly! Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Joining her on stage is the incredibly talented David Hyde Pierce (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, A Life), appearing to be having the most ridiculously fun time playing the object of Dolly’s transactional affection, Horace Vandergelder of Yonkers.

He mugs and hilariously embodies this grumpy miser, pulling out every ounce of mirth that can be found from every moment of stage.  It’s not a deep or remotely realistic portrayal by any means, but this show, as directed skillfully by Jerry Zakes (A Bronx Tale: The Musical) with spectacular choreography by Warren Carlyle (She Loves Me) isn’t trying for that kind of show.

What they are giving us on the Shubert Theatre stage (where I saw A Chorus Line about 35 years ago) is a bit of vaudevillian hilarity, incorporating all the strengths of Midler and Pierce into every scene possible.  The two are having so much fun that it is impossibly not to have a smile plastered from ear to ear for the entirety of this lovingly crafted quintessential Broadway show. (for the full review: click here)