Saturday, 03 June 2017 13:29

Bette Midler Stars in Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Original Broadway Cast Recording now available at Song & Script

Bette Midler stars as Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman’s "Hello, Dolly"

Highest grossing Musical Up for 10 Tony Awards including “Best Musical Revival”

“Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” – Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi, “Hello Dolly”

By Dennis Kucherawy

 

“Even before curtain time these nights, excitement radiates from 44th Street… Audiences queue up with high expectations; this is Bette Midler, after all.  But only moments into the opening number, Midler – center stage –lifts her brow, tilts her chin, and elongates her gaze.  The house roars thoroughly and immediately in the palm of her hand.  Glorious musical comedy is back on Broadway, with a cornucopia of melody pouring forth from the Victrola-like bandbox, veritable cascades of laughter, a frenzied blur of waters a leapin,’ and a kaleidoscopic swirl of lighter-than-air scenery mixed with luscious finery.”

By Steven Suskin (from the Hello Dolly CD booklet)

Copy:  Mr. Suskin wasn’t the only critic who exploded into paroxysms of purple prose attempting to describe Bette Midler’s return to New York City, this time on the stage of Broadway’s Shubert Theatre.

According to the New York Times, it’s “pulling in weekly grosses higher than those of another other show that opened during the just-concluded 2016-17 season.”

Yes, it’s only about 30 blocks from where she came to fame in the 1970s entertaining in the gay Continental Baths in the basement of the famed Ansonia Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  But it’s been a long journey of 50 years to return to the Great White Way and make her debut as a star in the classic musical “Hello Dolly” on the Great White Way’s Shubert Theatre on W.44th St.  (She debuted as daughter Tzeitel in “Fiddler on the Roof” in the 1960s, just a few blocks west, across from where Carol Channing in the original “Hello Dolly” was playing at the St. James Theatre.)

Now that she’s arrived, tickets … if you can get them … range to a top price of $US 748 if you want to participate in the love-in.   So the release of this recording with the Tony Awards just a week away is timely.

The CD is fun and exuberant with Larry Hochman’s new orchestrations and Andy Einhorn’s music direction.  Larry Zaks’ direction, based on Gower Champion’s original, as Ben Brantley of the New York Times noted, “delivers nostalgia with an exclamation point.”

Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey and, of course, Barbra Streisand in the movie adaptation have portrayed the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi.  Bette Midler, at 71, of course may not have as dynamic a voice or powerful a presence as she once did, but she still has a strong range, performing such stalwart numbers as “Before the Parade Passes By” with a loving, feisty determination.  And her performance of the title song is her life-loving salute to not only a terrific musical but her own return to Broadway. Xx

The remainder of the cast deliver a vibrant, high-energy performance.  Highlights include David Hyde Pierce (Niles on the “Fraser” TV show) as the bachelor “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder and his witty rendition of “Penny in My Pocket”; Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy performing several songs including the lovely “Ribbons Down My Back;” and Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl delivering romantically strong renditions of “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment” to mention a few.

It’s unfortunate that only one production photo in included in the booklet and that’s of of Bette Midler in her lavish, vermillion “Hello Dolly” gown and feather headdress for her legendary Harmonia Gardens Restaurant entrance scene made to the title song.  Critics have praised Santo Loquasto’s set and costume design of 19th-century New York City in shades of pink and hot pastels; they should have been included.

Track List:

Act One

1.          Overture

2.          Call on Dolly

3.          I Put My Hand In

4.          It Takes a Woman

5.          Put On Your Sunday Clothes

6.          Ribbons Down My Back

7.          Motherhood

8.          Dancing

9.          Before the Parade Passes By

Act Two

10.     Penny in My Pocket

11.     Elegance

12.     The Waiters’ Gallop

13.     Hello, Dolly

14.     It Only Takes a Moment

15.     So Long Dearie

16.     Finale

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Saturday, 03 June 2017 14:43
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