Encore Michigan

‘Hello Dolly’ back at the Fisher where it belongs

Review November 23, 2019 Patrice Nolan

DETROIT, Mich. – Winner of four Tony® Awards, including Best Musical Revival, HELLO, DOLLY! is the universally acclaimed smash that has had Broadway critics eating out of its silk-gloved hand. The revival of this American theatre classic set performance records in New York and, thanks to Broadway in Detroit, will be charming audiences at the Fisher Theatre through December 1st.  Fun fact: the original play had its earliest tryouts at the Fisher Theatre before moving on to Broadway in 1964, where it won 10 Tony Awards. This exuberant production echoes a time when American musical theatre was coming into its full power.

This American standard, with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, was originally based on Thornton Wilder’s play, The Matchmaker. A perennial favorite, this gorgeous production is expressly designed to delight anyone longing for an old-fashioned, pull-out-the-stops musical. The production numbers are big and buoyant, the costumes are worth the price of admission on their own, and the sumptuous sets and postcard-painted backdrops just add to the spectacle. And then there’s the music. With the first notes of the overture, we know we are in for a treat. The orchestra, under the baton of Ben Whiteley, is simply perfect, selling each note of the glorious orchestration by Larry Hochman.

And then there’s the dancing. A huge draw for this production is its recreation of the original Tony-Award-winning choreography by the legendary Gower Champion, who also directed that first production. The jubilant, sometimes gymnastic and always lovely dancing is just spectacular; this amazing company, led by choreographer Warren Carlyle, delivers all of Champion’s moves and more. After the iconic Act 2 production number (with all the dancing waiters) the audience stopped the show for several minutes of applause, cheering and whistles. This is classic Broadway musical theatre the way God and Gower Champion intended.

If there is anyone who hasn’t seen some version of Hello, Dolly!, it’s the story of the widow Dolly Gallagher Levi, an irrepressible spirit who supports herself by “meddling,” which includes serving as a matchmaker in turn-of-the-century New York. Dolly’s been hired to find a bride for the curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder, an eminent Yonkers widower and well-known “half-a-millionaire” whose principle charm lies buried in a wallet that rarely sees the light of day. Dolly is a champion of true love, but is not beneath giving Cupid a motivational kick in the rump. In the midst of helping others, it soon becomes clear that Dolly is determined to rehabilitate Vandergelder, let herself be courted by him, and quickly put all that hoarded wealth to good use.

The national tour boasts a cast with serious Broadway credentials, starting with three-time Tony-Award nominee Carolee Carmello as Dolly Gallagher Levi. A 30-year Broadway veteran who has starred as the lead in several classic revivals, she is a gifted singer and actress with natural comedic flair. Little wonder that Ms. Carmello is a natural fit for Dolly’s iconic red headdress.  

The company also features the versatile John Bolton, who is a comedic foil for Carmello in his role as Horace Vandergelder. His reprise of the “Hello, Dolly” anthem at the end is surprisingly touching.  Analisa Leaming as Irene Molloy is a true standout, recalling Julie Andrews in her prime.  Daniel Beeman as Cornelius Hackl and Sean Burns as Barnaby Tucker make a great duo of hapless yokels let loose in the city and determined to kiss a girl. The entire ensemble gives everything they’ve got: Chelsea Cree Groen as Minnie Fay, Colin LeMoine as Ambrose Kemper, Laura Sky Herman as Ermengarde, Jane Brockman as Ernestina, and Blake Hammond as Rudolph are featured. Rounding out the cast are Colin Bradbury, Alec Cohen, Julian DeGuzman, Karen Elliott, Christopher Faison, Jenny Hickman, Laura Irion, Madison Johnson, Julie Kavanagh, Nathan Keen, Ben Lanham, Marty Lauter, Ian Liberto, Hillary Porter, Steffany Pratt, Kyle Samuel, Liz Schmitz, Scott Shedenhelm, Timothy Shew, Cassie Austin Taylor, Cayel Tregeagle, Davis Wayne, and Brandon L. Whitmore.

Broadway veteran and Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks helms the outstanding creative team that reprises their work for this tour. Set and costume designs are by Santo Loquasto, lighting is the design of Natasha Katz, sound design is by Scott Lehrer, the music supervisor is Andy Einhorn, orchestration is by Larry Hochman, vocal arrangements are by Don Pippin, and the dance arranger is David Chase.

This show is a spectacle in the best sense — it is funny, sweet, and arranges everything expressly to delight your ears, dazzle your eyes, and charm your heart.  If for no other reason, see it for the dancing.

Click here for show days, times and details.

Read more about Hello, Dolly! 11/19–12/01

Read more about Broadway in Detroit.

Week of 10/19/2020

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