Theatre Review: “Hello, Dolly!” at TPAC

There is an unutterable joy that comes from a great Broadway musical done damn well. It’s with great satisfaction that I can report the national tour of Jerry Herman’s classic 1964 musical Hello, Dolly! is so ebullient and exceptional that the show’s passerelle runway can barely contain it all.

1964 is often cited as the apex of the Broadway musical. In the span of nine months, Hello, Dolly!Funny Girl, and Fiddler on the Roof all opened on Broadway. I’m something of a scholar in this field (if only self-proclaimed) and I can’t think of a single other calendar year that produced such uniquely landmark musicals that have gone on to be regarded as essential classics in their field.

While many legendary actresses have donned Dolly Gallagher Levi’s red gown – Ethel Merman, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Ginger Rogers, and Bette Midler more recently – there is only one name synonymous with the role and the red dress. Carol Channing, who passed away earlier this year at age 97, owned the role of Dolly, playing it more than 4,500 times over a thirty year span.

But a new dame – and what a grand old Broadway broad she is – has come to strut down the steps of the Harmonia Gardens restaurant and she is none other than the legendary Betty Buckley. While her Act One entrance is greeted with warm waves of welcoming applause from the Andrew Jackson Hall at TPAC, you ain’t seen nothing until she appears at the top of the famous staircase in Act Two and that raggy, jazzy brass fanfare of the show’s title song erupts from the pit. Brace yourselves is all I’ll say.

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