Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Hello, Dolly!
National Tour
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Don Juan


Carolee Carmello and John Bolton
Photo by Julieta Cervantes
From top to bottom and side to side, the national touring production of Hello, Dolly!, at Hartford's Bushnell through November 17th, is delightfully engaging theater. It is a joy to watch a show precisely structured and performed with a combination of poise and energy.

Carolee Carmello, who has appeared in 14 Broadway musicals and has both acting and vocal proficiency, plays the title character and finds more than one dimension in the recognizable figure. Dolly Gallagher has lost her husband, Ephraim, whom she truly loved. Dolly is a matchmaker who can help someone who has varicose veins and someone else who wishes to have ears pierced. A meddler, too, she intends to find another man with whom she will partner.

As the nineteenth century turns the corner into the twentieth, Dolly ventures from New York City to nearby Yonkers where Horace Vandergelder (a resolute John Bolton) runs his Hay and Feed store. He is a widower who believes he can answer any question. He has amassed quite a fortune for the day, half a million dollars, and he runs his business with a strong hand. Still, he is certain that many household chores and functions are best accomplished by a woman. So, he will find one and marry. He expresses his position early on with the song, "It Takes a Woman." Horace intends to get to the big city and ask Irene Molloy (Analisa Leaming), a gorgeous widow who runs a hat shop, to be his wife. Dolly evidently introduced Horace to Molly.

Before the first act concludes, it is perfectly apparent that Dolly feels that she and Horace should marry, and she leads the company in a poignant rendition of "Before the Parade Passes By." Dolly is looking for approval, somehow, from her late husband Ephraim before proceeding further with her plan regarding Horace.

The book for the musical was written by Michael Stewart while Jerry Herman wrote the music and lyrics. The original production was choreographed by Gower Champion and the current rendition, inclusive of precise, flashy, winning moves, is choreographed by Warren Carlyle. The production numbers feature athleticism and zip, as the actors proceed with flair and discipline. Jerry Zaks's direction brings everything together.

A full but not overbearing show, Hello, Dolly! includes a subplot involving two clerks who work for Vandergelder. Cornelius Hackl (Daniel Beeman) is 33 years old and sick of spending his time in Yonkers. He yearns for just one good day in New York City. His sidekick Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns) is 17 and he follows the older leader. Dolly has told them they should find both Irene and her young assistant Minnie Fay (Chelsea Cree Groen). Irene has already declared that she will wear a lovely hat to ensnare a man: "Ribbons Down My Back" is her explanatory song.

Hello, Dolly! debuted on Broadway in January, 1964. The legendary show lives on because of a fine combination of comedy, romance, and a great deal of feeling. The supporting plotlines add texture, too. The second act focuses on the leading lady both through anticipation and her delivery (with others) of the title number, "Hello, Dolly!" twice.

Carmello knows how to shine in the spotlight while not obliterating others in the company. She draws deserved applause and so, fittingly, does the entire cast. This actress has fine presence and a lovely generosity in terms of sharing the stage. She is a warm and welcoming Dolly. Carmello is a skilled actress who comfortably enjoys her role and encourages others on stage to join. Her performance is never understated but she has the good sense not to overplay the title character.

Throughout, Santo Loquasto's scenic and costume contributions are immeasurable. Various set pieces slide in and out, murals are essential and the action moves from New York to Yonkers and so on. All of the actors are resplendently dressed.

There was nary a hitch or glitch on opening night in Hartford as actor timing was exquisite.

Hello, Dolly! runs through November 17, 2019, at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT. For tickets, call 860-987-5900 or visit bushnell.org. For more information on the tour, visit hellodollyonbroadway.com.


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