Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 14, 2019

REVIEW: The Bushnell, Hello, Dolly!

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through Nov. 17, 2019
By Stuart W. Gamble

Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Eager theatergoers braved frigid temperatures to be wowed by the warmth of Jerry Herman’s joyous score and Michael Stewart’s farcically fun story, that is Hello, Dolly. By evening’s end, the orchestra swayed the audience out of the house, re-iterating the score to the accompaniment of impromptu singing and humming. Even the trumpeter who rattled out the title tune in front of the theater made viewers forget the cold night air and take in the joie de vivre that is the essence of this perennial favorite.

This reviewer was fortunate to have enjoyed the recent Broadway revival featuring Bette Midler and the Boston show with Betty Buckley. This marathon tour stars multiple Tony nominee Carolee Carmello, who ably fills their shoes. Carmello’s Dolly is funny, ebullient, and a songstress without equal. Her Dolly smiles and connives her way into the hearts of both the audience and especially the crusty, half-a-millionaire Horace VanDerGelder (John Bolton), who is a perfect match for Carmello. Other cast members of note include Analisa Leaming as Irene Malloy, whose thrilling soprano matches her natural beauty and her comic flair. Sean Burns as Barnaby Tucker is a phenomenal performer: he sings, dances, and clowns around with astronautic zeal. Burns and Daniel Beeman’s Cornelius Hackl work in comedic tandem doing double and sometimes triple takes to the audiences’ delight.

Hello, Dolly! Is the kind of show in which one recalls memorable moments, due to its episodic dramatic structure.  There is the joyous “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” number at the Yonkers’ Train Station, with the ensemble seeming to float across the stage, twirling their parasols and tipping their bowler hats costumed by Santo Loquasto, looking like violet, yellow, aqua, pink, and blue dyed Easter eggs. The grandiose and off-kilter courtroom, also designed by Loquasto features Cornelius and Irene’s tender 11th hour ballad “It Only Takes a Moment.” Also of note is the cotton candy pink Molloy’s Millinery where Cornelius and Barnaby frantically outwit Vandergelder with the help of Irene, Minnie, and Dolly. Finally, there is, of course, the dazzling title number featuring raven-gowned and diamond-studded Dolly and the prancing and leaping wait staff at the Harmonia Gardens, whose whirling dervish-like spectacular dancing earned a minute-long audience ovation.

This staging of one of musical theater’s most beloved shows is indeed a memorable one. Though ably supported by the incredibly talented cadre of singers, dancers, and comedians, it belongs to the titular star. Carolee Carmello is that rare performer who can touch our hearts when singing the rousing anthem “Before The Parade Passes By” and tickle our funny bone when clownishly devouring a turkey leg and slurping and gargling gravy while popping down a dozen dumplings at the elegant Harmonia Gardens. This extended scene is priceless, as is the entire production.