BWW Review: HELLO, DOLLY at Starlight Theatre
It is no surprise that the Tony for 2017's Best Revival of a Musical went to Hello, Dolly. Revivals, like Dolly itself, are all about nostalgia. It's that soft-focus backward gaze to a magical land that never quite existed. Dolly has delivered on its expectations for some half a century now, and shows no sign of abatement. With the launch of a new tour run - and a new "Dolly" - it seems the old favorite as as strong as ever.
Based on the Thornton Wilder play The Matchmaker and with the music of Jerry Herman, Dolly follows Dolly Levi (née Galllagher), a feisty widow who, over the course of a single day, singlehandedly brings together four separate couples, one of which includes herself. This is a part that hangs primarily upon the performer's charisma, and their ability to bring it through the role. Small wonder the part has historically been the domain of those performers who have distinguished themselves as "larger than life": Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Barbra Streisand, Pearl Bailey...the list goes on.
Which, of course, brings us to the question of the night: Carolee Carmello. Kansas City marks her debut in the role, replacing Betty Buckley. So, how does she fare? Does she have the moxie to pull the character off?
Well, of course she does. Let's face it, nobody is going to be even considered for headlining a known top-tier property like this unless it is absolutely certain she has the chops. And indeed she does. Ms Carmello's Dolly is vivacious, colorful. She's a particularly active one as well, pretty much nonstop from beginning to end. There were places where there might have been a bit more depth, a touch more pathos, but sunny is the name of the game here, so smiles all around and keep it light.
And that, I think, is the crux. Every facet of Dolly has been pored over, field tested and honed into the perfect Musical Theater Entertainment Product. People want to know what they're getting with a show like Dolly, and Dolly duly delivers. It is impressive from a technical standpoint: the sheer scale of the elaborate sets, very impressive choreography, every part a well-oiled machine. The show provides its own parallel in the opening scene at Harmonia Gardens, with the waiters flashing back and forth "twice as lightning", expertly choreographed, relentlessly precise. Where Dolly - and Dolly - indeed belong.