Hello, Dolly! Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; Book by Michael Stewart Directed by Eric Schaeffer; At Ford’s Theatre to May 18 At Ford's Theatre, a boisterous musical can't quite scale down

Glowing and Crowing: Hello, Dolly! doesn’t quite scale down gracefully.

A single, plaintive male voice keens the opening number of Hello, Dolly! at Ford’s Theatre. “Call on Dolly,” he sighs, “she’s the one the spinsters recommend.”

If you know the show, his sweet, solitary vocals will surprise you. 1964’s Dolly is perhaps the most boisterous musical of a boisterous Broadway era, its opening normally one of those bright, stage-filling, belligerently cheery chorus numbers with which directors tell audiences they’re in for a good time.

This wistful solo promises something else—memories of a bygone Yonkers perhaps, in an evening suffused with warmth and just a touch of melancholy. As you’re registering that unorthodox thought, you’ll note the rich dark browns with which set designer Adam Koch has created the grand arch of a train station, and the wash of amber light Colin K. Bills is using to burnish the soft lavenders, olives, and burnt oranges of Wade Laboissonniere’s costumes. The stage is very nearly a sepia-tone photograph come to life.

Director Eric Schaeffer’s program notes indicate he’s intent on reinventing Dolly, much as he reconceived Sweeney Todd and Passion in his emotionally resonant chamber mountings for Signature Theatre (which is co-producing Dolly with Ford’s), freeing it from the primary colors and cartoon-like settings Oliver Smith created for the original Broadway production, finding the human, character-based story within.

This opening number amounts to a striking, if not entirely persuasive, declaration of that intent. The lyrics of the song simply repeat several times, so having them sung, however sensitively, by a single voice just emphasizes the repetition. And when Nancy Opel’s pert, pleasantly down-to-earth Dolly makes her entrance in the middle of it, the effect is slightly deflating—a star vehicle denied the oomph of a star entrance.

Still, the evening, based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, remains sturdily tuneful (I’ve still got “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” rattling around my head as I write this) even if it does not lend itself to easy downsizing. Besides stripping away the staircase that has long seemed as central to Dolly as falling chandeliers and rising truck tires are to Lloyd Webber musicals, Schaeffer had to make do here with a cast of 16 in a show with 10 speaking parts. His principals are all amusing and full-voiced, but that leaves choreographer Karma Camp a teeming, stage-filling chorus of just six with which to create the surrounding bustle of New York, and the all-male chorus welcoming Dolly back where she belongs to the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant is a platoon of four, count ’em, four, prancing waiters—barely enough to handle a Tuesday night crowd at T.G.I. Friday’s. That she’s still glowing, she’s still crowing, she’s still going at all, qualifies as quite an accomplishment under the circumstances.

Our Readers Say

An all-star line-up for National Asian Artists Project(NAAP) 3rd All-Asian Production

Hello, Dolly starring Christine Toy Johnson!

National Asian Artists Project
Founded By: Baayork Lee, Steven Eng, Nina Zoie Lam

Professional Asian-American actors in the classic musical comedy HELLO, DOLLY! written By Michael Stewart (Book) and Jerry Herman (Music/Lyrics)

In the heart of NYC's theatre district? Naturally! After all, this great American musical is for all Americans, and National Asian Artists Project is giving it a new and unique voice. With a cast of 20 of some of NY's most talented Asian-American actors who have appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and throughout the U.S., this is an important step in opportunities for Asian-American actors to demonstrate that a great show only needs great people.
And directed by Lee Roy Reams (director of the 1995 Broadway Carol Channing revival), this will be an event not to miss.
Dates Two Performances Only:
Apr 29 & May 6

Ticket Prices Starting at $25.00
Up To $150.00 (Opening Night)

The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 244-7529
Fax: (212) 714-9083

Subway & Buses:
A, C, or E Subway to 42nd St.,
walk west 2 avenue blocks to theatre
1,2,3,7, N,R,Q,W,S Subway to Times Square,
walk west on 42nd several avenue blocks
to theatre
M42 Bus 42nd Street crosstown stops on
42nd St. between 10th and 11th Aves.
M11 Bus North on 10th Ave./South on 9th Ave.

Purchase Tickets

Please contact Richard Skipper at 845-365-0720 for more info!

Leave a Comment

Note: HTML tags are not allowed in comments.
Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.