Hello, Dolly! Tour Brings Classic Broadway With New Energy to Cleveland

“Isn’t the world filled with wonderful things?” Cornelius Hackl remarks about falling in love in “Hello, Dolly!” I made a similar remark after viewing the incredible and show-stopping performance of the touring production of Hello, Dolly!, which made its first bow Friday, October 5th at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square.

“Hello, Dolly!” centers around Dolly Gallagher Levi (played by Broadway legend Betty Buckley), a widowed woman who is in the business of arranging things, primarily marriages. This reputation puts her at the disposal of the well-known half a millionaire of a hay and feed business, Horace Vandergelder (played with excellent comedic timing and true penny-pinching nature by Lewis J.Stadlen). While Mr. Vandergelder is under the impression that he will be paired with Mrs. Irene Malloy (Analisa Leaming adds great fire and spunk to this role), but as always, Dolly has a plan of her own, to marry Horace herself, and the only way to accomplish it is by creating some chaos.

Inadvertently joining in on Dolly’s hijinks are Horace’s two underpaid store clerks, Cornelius Hackl (played by a brilliant Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (dancer extraordinaire Jess LeProtto), who want to have an adventure and see Barnum’s stuffed whale. Irene’s assistant, Minnie Faye (the ever charming Kristen Hahn), also gets thrown into the mix.

“Dolly” originally opened in 1964, but time has not damaged the humor laced into Michael Stewart’s book. The jokes still get audiences today thanks to the snappy dialogue and timelessness of the story. Genuine laughter rang throughout the theatre through both acts. The show also presents strong visuals through its choreography, which is heavily presented in the number “Dancing.” The ensemble’s kicks, leaps and turns are at the definition of Broadway perfection and are not simply used to fill time, but to carry on the storyline. The score, composed by Jerry Herman, is not tired either. “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Before the Parade Passes By” still provides all of the thrills and soars through the rafters. The response from the audience was rapturous with their applause with each of these iconic numbers.

At the center of it all is Betty Buckley, best known for originating the role of Grizabella in “Cats”, in dazzling form dressed in the iconic red dress and feather headdress. Buckley joins a long history of Broadway divas, including the original Dolly, Carol Channing, and she most certainly does not drop the ball. Buckley adds warmth and charisma to her Dolly. Her descent from the stairs in the title number is breathtaking and I couldn’t help but smile during Buckley’s performance. You can’t help but adore her meddling in affairs, yet it is in Dolly’s more refined moments that Buckley truly shines. In the show, Dolly pleads to her deceased husband multiple times to help her move on by providing her with a sign. It is in these instances that Buckley connects with the audience and provides an emotional, vulnerable side to the often humorous show.​

Time is not always kind to musicals of Broadway’s golden age. Revivals and tours require many re-stagings and rewrites to appeal to a modern audience that may not even connect to it. “Hello, Dolly!” Is not one of those shows. The show feels fresh, new and exemplifies what a traditional Broadway musical should be. Dolly is right where she belongs: touring the country and providing laughs and joy for audiences across the nation.