BWW Review: HELLO, DOLLY! at Kentucky Center For The Arts
Hello, Dolly! is a true american classic, and is treated by some as the perfect musical comedy. Like many associate Ethel Merman with Gypsy or Anything Goes, the hand prints of the late great Carol Channing are forever integrated into Hello, Dolly's legacy. In 2017 it was announced that the show would return to Broadway starring none other than Bette Midler, a worthy successor to Carol Channing. In the Broadway run of this Tony Award winning revival audiences were treated to performances from such greats as Bernadette Peters and Donna Murphy. The trend of star power associated with this revival continues ten-fold with the one and only Broadway legend Betty Buckley taking her turn in the iconic red feathers.
The performances in this production are all around stunning, but the show is rightfully centered on, and grounded by Betty Buckley's career re-defining performance as Dolly Levi. The minute she enters you can't help but be transfixed on her, she has the kind magnetic quality that I've only witnessed a handful of times in my theatre-going life. Her voice is still absolutely incredible and while she hasn't been known for her comedic chops in the past (Grizabella's story line in Cats isn't exactly a laugh riot) she will be from now on. With simple movement and a single look Buckley easily has the audience in stitches. Not only is Betty Buckley turning in a top tier performance, it's worth noting just how lucky we are to see it. It's not everyday that Louisville is treated to a Tony Award winning legend leading a grand and lavish golden age musical comedy. Moments like this should be cherished.
Matching Buckley laugh for laugh is Lewis J. Stadlen as Horace Vandergelder. He plays the role as a likable grump, serving as a wonderful foil to Buckley's very eccesntric Dolly Levi. He has many moments of understated comedic brilliance. As Cornelius Hackl, Nic Rouleau is absolutely delightful. He plays the role with a type of charm and dumb luck that makes you think he walked out of a 50's movie musical. His voice is absolutely stunning. Opposite him as Irene Malloy is the wonderful Analisa Leaming. Her Irene is wonderfully spunky and quite funny. She's in fantastic voice, getting to show off her beautiful soprano. As their friends Barnaby and Minnie, Sean Burns and Kristen Hahn are adorable together. Their chemistry onstage couldn't be better.
I must give a shout out to the amazing ensemble this production has assembled. The dancing in this show is beautifully complicated and they don't miss a beat. "The Waiters Gallop" is truly a sight to behold.
Physically the show is phenomenal as well. The use of classic painted backdrops invoke the sense that you're watching a classic, but the actual set pieces are part of what makes this revival so stunning. Along with that, the costumes are crafted with such color and light that they practically burst off the stage.
In conclusion, this show is everything a classic musical comedy should be. It's light and fluffy with catchy tunes delivered by exceptional performers. Even if the show itself might not be your personal "brand" of musical, I can't stress enough just how amazing it was to see someone of Betty Buckley's calibar live and in person.
Now - May 19, 2019
Whitney Hall in The Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.