BWW Review: BETTY BUCKLEY TAKES HER FINAL BOW IN HELLO, DOLLY! at Boston’s Opera House
Sometimes all you need to lift your spirits is a good old-fashioned star-driven musical comedy, and, boy, does the national tour of HELLO, DOLLY! with Betty Buckley deliver. Keeping all of the Tony Award-winning revival’s energy and joyful spirit intact, this high-stepping celebration of life, love and second chances grabs the audience’s heart with the first notes of the overture and never lets go till the final bow.
Of course, Buckley is the main attraction here, and she is estimable in the role. She puts her own poignant stamp on Dolly, mixing an irrepressible natural mischievousness with the weight of a widow’s grieving. Now at a point where she has decided that it’s finally time to return to the world of the living “Before the Parade Passes By,” she asks her late husband Ephraim to “let her go.” She’ll wait for his sign, of course, but she makes it clear that she has set her cap on the famous widowed half a millionaire from Yonkers, Horace Vandergelder (a splendid Lewis J. Stadlen). And so, Dolly plots and plans, ultimately putting her infamous matchmaking skills to work for herself.
Buckley is captivating throughout, but never more so than when teaching Cornelius (a starry-eyed Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby (a delightfully naïve Sean Burns) how to win over their lady loves Irene Molly (a spirited Analisa Leaming) and Minnie Fay (a charmingly goofy Kristen Hahn) by “Dancing.” As the couples gain confidence and waltz away from her, enraptured, Buckley is at once happy and wistful. With one look she remembers her youth and accepts her future – and determines to embrace the next chapter.
That next chapter kicks into high gear with her triumphant return to Harmonia Gardens, the famed restaurant where Dolly and Ephraim won many a dance contest years ago. In one of the most iconic entrances in all of musical theater, Buckley descends the emporium’s grand red velvet staircase, wearing her bright red hat and gown, and suddenly all is right with the world. To say that Buckley sparkles is an understatement. She positively glows.
But this HELLO, DOLLY! is not just a star vehicle. Its superb ensemble matches the famous matchmaker’s radiance watt for watt. Stadlen is a perfect curmudgeonly foil for Buckley’s good-natured interference. Rouleau, Leaming, Burns and Hahn keep their blossoming romances effervescent and fun. The entire cast maintains the buoyant pace that lifts the comedy into downright farce. And the voices, particularly when in full chorus mode, are exquisite and in glorious harmony.
The dancing, too, is thrilling. Dancers high-step, strut, leap and turn as if gliding across a cloud. Their moves are executed with an effortless energy and precision that belies their athleticism and intricacy. “The Waiter’s Gallop” and the famed title song, as always, stop the show.
The Boston engagement of this first national tour is the last for the legendary Betty Buckley. Her triumphant run ends at the Citizens Bank Opera House on August 25. Before she says, “So Long, Dearie,” you might want to say, “Hello, Dolly!” one last time. For “It Only Takes a Moment” to fall in love with this revival your whole life long.