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Review Roundup: HELLO (Again), DOLLY! with Donna Murphy

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Hello, Dolly!Fresh off of the show's four Tony wins, Hello, Dolly! just welcomed two-time Tony Award®-winner and one of Broadway's most treasured stars, Donna Murphy, stepping into the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi for Tuesday evening performances (Ms. Murphy will also take over the role during Ms. Midler's vacations.)

Directed by four-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle, Hello, Dolly! is playing at Broadway's Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street).

An award-winning star of stage and screen, Ms. Murphy has captivated audiences and critics alike with the depth and range of her work, including Tony Award-winning performances in Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's Passion and Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I, Tony nominated performances in Wonderful Town, LoveMusik and The People in the Picture, and The Witch in The Public Theater's acclaimed production of Into The Woods. Ms. Murphy earned a Daytime Emmy for her work in HBO's "Someone Had to Benny," and her many TV credits include the PBS period drama Mercy Street, ABC's Resurrection, VH1's Hindsight, The Good Wife, and Royal Pains. On the big screen, Ms. Murphy was last seen in The Bourne Legacy, Todd Solondz' Dark Horse and Vera Farmiga's Higher Ground. Her other memorable film performances include The Nanny Diaries, Center Stage, Star Trek: Insurrection, and the voice of Mother Gothel in Disney's hit animated feature Tangled.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Hello, Dolly!David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: The experience of seeing both Midler and Murphy defies comparison. Midler brings an intimate relationship with the audience honed over almost five decades of super-stardom across multiple mediums. She's winking at us from behind the character, and we can't help but love her for it. Murphy also lets us know she's having a blast up there, but she does so while shaping a full-bodied character more distinct from herself. The musical remains a star showcase, but one that here nudges the material closer to its origins as a Thornton Wilder play. From her first number, "I Put My Hand In," in which Dolly explains her philosophy as a professional meddler, matchmaker and Jill of all trades, Murphy crafts a character who's a consummate scammer. A brash opportunist with a brassy, down-to-earth manner that can transform in an instant to cultivated mock sophistication, she's able to manipulate any situation to her advantage. But alongside those qualities sits a generosity, an infectious joie de vivre that touches everyone she encounters - even David Hyde Pierce's hilariously grouchy Horace Vandergelder, despite his futile attempts to resist.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Murphy's Dolly is gabby, game and gleeful as she dispenses the pleasures of Jerry Herman's songs and Michael Stewart's lines, occasionally with a conspiratorial wink. ("Oh, stop!" her eyes seem to telegraph, none-too-convincingly, when the extremely partisan audience roared at her first entrance.) She is hardly averse to shtick, as in an extended Harmonia Gardens duet with dumplings that grows comically orgasmic. Her velvet soprano is nearly unrecognizable here, armored in a thick 14th Street accent and a Rudy Vallee warble, all evident from the first phrases of Dolly's opening number, "I Put My Hand In."

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: What actress would even dare to step up? Murphy would - and does. She's center-stage on Tuesdays and during Midler's time off. Murphy is a star with dazzling comic chops and a voice to match - and she's giving the gutsiest star turn in town. And, at times, the funniest. The "Passion" and "The King and I" Tony winner finds laughs that Midler actually doesn't in a hat-shop scene courtesy of some loosey-goosey shimmying. Murphy's encounter with dumplings - all orgasmic shudders and squeals - brings dizzy bliss that money can't buy.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Bette Midler won our love in "Hello, Dolly!" just by wiggling her pinky finger. Donna Murphy, who has slipped into Dolly Gallagher Levi's trim little boots while Bette is on vacation (and will continue to play the role for one performance a week once Midler returns), has to work harder, earning our affection with a beautifully acted, powerfully sung and earnestly felt performance. Best of all, she has the comic chops to laugh her way into this iconic role.

Jessica Derschowitz, Entertainment Weekly: Watching Midler as Dolly involves doing just that - the awareness of seeing an icon and hearing that famous voice as she takes on the character of Dolly Levi. Murphy has her own fervent fanbase (the applause Sunday started right as the overture did, and she got a prolonged, enthusiastic introduction from the audience when she first appeared on stage), but her Dolly comes without that additional layer of spectacle (or call it Midlerness, if you'd like). She dives into the character and makes her an effervescent, winking protagonist - putting on a New Yawk accent, dancing gamely with a bevy of waiters in the showstopping title number, going to town on a delectable dinner as her costars (and the audience) watch in hilarious awe, and proudly waving a flag as the widowed Dolly declares she's determined to live life fully again in "Before the Parade Passes By."

Matt Windman, amNY: I'll just come right out and say it: I prefer Donna Murphy over Bette Midler in "Hello, Dolly!" - and I suspect that many other theater insiders who have seen both divas go on as Dolly Gallagher Levi also feel the same way.

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