Theatre Review: HELLO, DOLLY! Gives Warm Welcome to Audiences for Latest Broadway Series
Fresh off a Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway, Hello, Dolly! opens the 2019-2020 Broadway Series at the Fabulous Fox.
Carolee Carmello is sensational as Dolly, a widowed matchmaker who is known for making everyone’s business her own. There’s nothing she can’t do as she earns a living by taking on as many side-jobs as possible. But she’s getting tired, and wants to settle down and marry again. She sets her sights on millionaire Horace Vandergelder (John Bolton), who runs a hay and feed store in Yonkers. She plans to discretely lure him away from his betrothed – Irene Molloy (Analisa Leaming) – and make him fall in love with her.
From the moment Carmello appears on stage, the audience knows they are in for a treat. The actor’s charming smile, wonderful voice, and impeccable comedic timing make for a pitch-perfect portrayal of the iconic character. Her chemistry with Bolton, while their characters are mostly at odds throughout the show, is endlessly entertaining. One of the most delightful scenes of the evening takes place in Molloy’s hat shop, as Dolly tries to convince Vandergelder that there is no funny business going on. The situation resembles something out of an Abbott and Costello routine and is nothing short of hilarious.
And of course, there is her showstopping number – “Hello, Dolly!” – as she dawns the famous red dress, singing and dancing along with the ensemble as the audience breaks into roaring applause. Carmello owns the scene, which I thought might even prompt a standing ovation midway through the song.
While she is often smiling, Dolly hides a sadness behind her upbeat demeanor – partially due to her dedication to her late husband. Carmello shines in these dramatic moments as much as she does in her highly energetic song and dance numbers.
Bolton puts his vocal and comedic talents on display as the miserly millionaire in numbers like “It Takes a Woman,” and “Penny in My Pocket” which kicks off the second act. He and Carmello are a great pairing, never ceasing to delight as their characters are constantly at odds. Bolton is able to exude his character’s penny-pinching nature while keeping him likable in a tremendously fun performance.
As Dolly and Vandergelder head to New York City, so do two of the feed store clerks: Cornelius Hackl (Daniel Beeman) and Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns). After being “promoted” from head clerk to head clerk, Cornelius decides that he isn’t satisfied with his life in Yonkers – working seven days a week with no social life. He plots a way to leave the store for 24 hours and experience an adventure in the city, dragging Barnaby along with him.
Beeman and Burns are fantastic in the comedic roles, causing much of the laughter throughout the show. The two of them are perfectly in-sync as they deliver many of their reoccurring lines during the evening, and both have a knack for the more slapstick, physical comedy.
Joining the clerks on their adventure in New York are Irene Molloy and her assistant Minnie (Chelsea Cree Groen), convinced the pair from Yonkers are well-to-do. This is the catalyst for several entertaining mishaps, highlighted by their extraordinary dinner at Harmonia Gardens in ACT II. This impressive scene is one of the highlights of the show, filled with singing and dancing waiters expertly choreographed by Warren Carlyle and Sara Edwards.
The charismatic Leaming delights as Molloy, who is more interested in living her life than settling down with Vandergelder. The actor makes hitting the high notes look effortless, showing off her vocal talents in “Ribbons Down My Back.” Meanwhile, it’s fun watching Groen portray Minnie’s concern for her boss’ non-traditional ways. The two of them share great chemistry with Beeman and Burns, always making it fun to watch the four of them on-stage.
Santo Loquasto provides bright and colorful costume designs, in beautiful contrast to his darker backgrounds. The suits and dresses dazzle as their designs pop right off the stage. There is also an impressive train set-piece that delights as it chugs across the stage.
Director Jerry Zaks highlights the reasons the show has remained so popular after half a century. The fun story and songs showcased by the talented cast make for a great start to the newest Broadway Series at The Fox, and is sure to have audiences delighted to shout Hello, Dolly!
See Hello, Dolly! now through October 13 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis. Tickets are available via MetroTix. For more information, visit fabulousfox.com or the official tour site at hellodollyonbroadway.com.
Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes