Review: Hello, Dolly! (Broadway in Chicago, 2018)

| October 30, 2018

Betty Buckley stars as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Broadway in Chicago 3    



Hello, Dolly! 
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Michael Stewart
Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map)
thru Nov 17  |  tix: $27-$108  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


A Broadway classic done in classic Broadway fashion


Betty Buckley and Lewis J. Stadlen star as Dolly and Horace in Hello Dolly, Broadway in Chicago 2

Broadway in Chicago presents
Hello, Dolly!

Review by John Olson

This 1964 musical ran for nearly seven years on Broadway thanks in large part to producer David Merrick’s practice of bringing some of show business’s most famous actresses into the title role – a role meaty and funny but one offering enough latitude to suit a variety of performance styles and personas. Carol Channing originated the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi and will be forever identified with it, but the likes of Pearl Bailey, Martha Raye, Ethel Merman and in the recent Broadway revival, Bette Midler, made it their own as well. So for this national tour of that revival directed by Jerry Zaks, we have Betty Buckley and Lewis J. Stadlen star as Dolly and Horace in Hello Dolly, Broadway in Chicagothe now-unusual practice of getting a star to tour in the title role – Betty Buckley. Since Midler’s presence in the Broadway revival made it a hot and expensive ticket, it’s tempting to want to make comparisons. Not having seen Midler in the role, I can’t, but what’s the point anyway? Betty Buckley is one of the greats of the Broadway stage. She originated the role of the aging Grizabella in Cats on Broadway and those who might have been around for that will remember her fondly as Abby in TV’s “Eight is Enough”. She’s one of our very best musical theater actresses, period. But do we think of her as funny?

No matter. Buckley is funny enough as the widow matchmaker seeking to remarry for money, but what’s distinctive about her Dolly is her warmth. In the monologues where Dolly addresses her late husband Ephraim Levi, asking for a sign that he approves of her remarriage and recalling the zest for life he possessed that she hopes to reclaim for herself, Buckley is downright touching and a little heartbreaking, Further, she shows true compassion for the young lovers she takes under her wing as well. And for her vocals – well, it’s no surprise to anyone who’s heard her sing that she wrings everything there is to be wrung out of Jerry Herman’s score. She can belt like Merman (well, almost) when she wants to, or softly croon. Like so many of the actresses who have preceded her in the role, she bends to it her own, considerable skills.

She’s paired with Lewis J. Stadlen, one of the great Broadway character actors of past several decades, as Horace Vandergelder. Stadlen’s deadpan, gravelly voice has served him well through many roles since his Broadway debut as Groucho Marx in the 1970 musical Minnie’s Boys; and the crotchety skinflint Horace is a perfect match to his vocal and comedic talents. The other comic standout of the cast is Jess LeProtto, bringing acrobatic skill to the role of the seventeen-year-old clerk Barnaby Tucker.

Hello Dolly National Tour, Broadway in Chicago, Oriental Theatre 5Betty Buckley stars as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Broadway in Chicago Betty Buckley stars as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Broadway in Chicago 3Hello Dolly National Tour, Broadway in Chicago, Oriental Theatre 3

Zak has brought two other vocal standouts to the tour as well. Playing Irene Molloy, the milliner who Dolly initially matches to Vandergelder before determining to snag the rich merchant for herself, is Analisa Leaming, who understudied the role on Broadway, and earlier had understudied Anna for Kelli O’Hara in The King and I. We only get to hear her to full advantage once – in her solo “Ribbons on My Back,” but she establishes herself as as fine a soprano as we’re likely to hear in musical theatre anywhere. She gives Irene an appealing independence and feistiness as well. Nic Rouleau, who Chicago audiences will remember from his Elder Price in the first national tour of The Book of Mormon, has a few more chances to show off as Cornelius – in his “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment.” But where Rouleau was funny as well as a strong singer in Mormon, here he falls victim to Zaks’s often pushy direction that tries too hard to be funny and robs Rouleau’s Cornelius of much the charm the role requires. Zaks smartly lets Buckley play it soft and sensitively, but his direction of the supporting players gets so broad as to become almost unfunny. Hello, Dolly!, like its source material, Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker is a farce, but there’s still opportunity to relax a little in places and let numbers “Dancing” and “Elegance” be charming. Frequently, Zaks seems to be playing this musical as a vaudeville and this hinders us from making an honest connection with the young lovers.

Even so, in total, it’s an entertaining and colorful package, with Santo Loquasto’s sets and costumes taking us back to the New York City of the 1880’s. His sets include some gorgeous painted backdrops of NYC streetscapes that evoke the time and place nicely. He makes two dancers look like a real horse pulling a streetcar and gives us a most convincing train locomotive and passenger car ready to make the trip from Yonkers to NYC.

This Hello, Dolly! is classic Broadway showmanship in all the most important ways: a major Broadway performer we all ought to see at least once, a top flight supporting cast and bright and clever production values.

Rating: ★★★½

Hello, Dolly! continues through November 17th at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map), with performances Tuesdays 7:30pm, Wednesdays 2pm & 7:30pm, Thursday and Fridays 7:30pm, Saturdays 2pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm & 7:30pm.  Tickets are $27-$108, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online through (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Betty Buckley stars as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Broadway in Chicago 2Hello Dolly National Tour, Broadway in Chicago, Oriental Theatre 1

Photos by Julieta Cervantes




Betty Buckley (Dolly Gallagher Levi), Garrett Hawe (Ambrose Kemper), Lewis J. Stadlen (Horace Vandergelder), Morgan Kerner (Ermengarde), Nic Rouleau (Cornelius Hackl), Jess LeProtto (Barnaby Tucker), Kristen Hahn (Minnie Fay), Analisa Leaming (Irene Molloy), Beth Kirkpatrick (Mrs. Rose, ensemble), Jessica Sheridan (Ernestina), Wally Dunn (Rudolph), Scott Shedenhelm (Stanley, ensemble), Timothy Shew (Judge, ensemble), Daniel Beeman (Court Clerk, ensemble); Maddy Apple, Giovanni Bonaventura, Elizabeth Broadhurst, Julian DeGuzman, Alexandra Frohlinger, Dan Horn, Corey Hummerston, Madison Johnson, Ben Lanham, Kyle Samuel, Maria Cristina Slye, Cassie Austin Taylor, Davis Wayne, Brandon J. Whitmore, Connor Wince (ensemble).

behind the scenes

Jerry Zaks (director), Warren Carlyle (choreographer), Santo Loquasto (scenic and costume design), Natasha Katz (lighting design), Scott Lehere (sound design), Larry Hochmann (orchestrations), Robert Billig (music director), Andy Einhorn (music supervisor), Don Pippin (vocal arrangements), David Chase (dance arrangements), Seymour Red Press (music coordinator), Campbell Young Associates (hair, makeup and wig design), Brian J. L’ecliyer (production stage manager), Julieta Cervantes (photos)

Hello Dolly National Tour, Broadway in Chicago, Oriental Theatre 4Hello Dolly National Tour, Broadway in Chicago, Oriental Theatre 2


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2018 Reviews, Broadway in Chicago, Jerry Herman, John Olson, Musical, National Tours, Oriental Theatre (Ford), Thornton Wilder

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.