Scott, Richard, and I saw *Hello, Dolly!* on Broadway on 3/11/18. This was Scott's first time seeing this production (he saw the Broadway revival with Carol Channing in the 90s), Richard's third time, and my fourth time. This show fascinates me. I'm not sure it's good, but it sure makes me FEEL good. And what more do I want from a theatrical experience? Yes, it's nice to be stimulated intellectually, and I'm glad that we have Shakespeare, Pinter, and Sondheim for that - - but it's nice to see a bit of fluff and cry hot tears of joy.
Let's have a quick review:
April 2017: Richard and I (and John and David) saw it with Bette Midler as Dolly.
November 2017: Richard and I (and Stephanie) saw it again with Bette Midler.
December 2017: I saw it with Donna Murphy as Dolly.
There have been changes to the cast:
DOLLY LEVI: was Midler or Murphy, now Bernadette Peters.
HORACE VANDERGELDER: was David Hyde Pierce, now Victor Garber.
MINNIE FAY: was Beanie Feldstein, now Molly Griggs.
BARNABY TUCKER: was Taylor Trensch, now Charlie Stemp.
We knew about those cast changes going into the show, but were surprised by two more:
CORNELIUS HACKL: was Gavin Creel, now Christian Dante White.
IRENE MOLLOY: was Kate Baldwin, now Leslie Donna Flesner.
Those two were understudies going on in those roles in our particular performance. Let me talk about the supporting players first, I'll work my way up to Peters.
Griggs was cute and funny, but not as lovable as Feldstein. Ditto for Stemp, but they did add some dance solos for him, those were a fun addition. Flesner was the latest example of the carbon copy casting concept: she was indistinguishable from the original, Kate Baldwin. She looked very much like her and sounded almost exactly like her. Richard and I ran into this situation when we saw *Wicked* years ago - - the young woman playing Glinda was doing a first-class Kristin Chenoweth impersonation. That's a pretty neat trick, but I'd rather hear the authentic version of the woman playing the role, not her version of someone else.
Christian Dante White was a mixed bag as Cornelius Hackl. On the plus side, he was darling, has a handsome voice, is a good dancer, really delivered the goods. On the minus side, he was trying WAY too hard. His singing was too loud, his smile was too wide - - we had a funhouse mirror situation with him, his performance was bigger and more brightly colored than the already big and brightly lit performances surrounding him. As Scott put it, "He was getting on my hackles!" He was the understudy for the divine, Tony-winning Gavin Creel, so I think he felt he needed to make the most of his moment. Creel had plenty of razzle dazzle, but it was tempered by restraint. White was lacking charm.
Victor Garber was just fine as Horace Vandergelder. He lacked the in-the-bones adorable curmudgeonly quality that David Hyde Pierce had, and he didn't replace it with anything equally valuable.
Which leaves us with Bernadette Peters as Dolly Levi. She was a treasure. Maybe it's not fair to compare her to the two other women I saw in the role, but that's the chance you take when you go into a role played by others before you. Bette Midler was an EVENT, in all caps. The highlight of her performance was the complete insanity of the audience, and she was the creator of and entirely deserving of that insanity. Donna Murphy was more human-scaled, more sexy, had more moxie. Peters had an undercurrent of melancholy in her portrayal, she was the most vulnerable of the three. She was still plenty funny in the comedy moments, but the most memorable parts were when she dropped the metaphorical spinning plates and let us see the tired, lonely Dolly underneath it all. She was more touching than the other two. I'm glad I saw all three, it's really fascinating to me how you can bring so many different qualities to this role and still make sense of it.
I hope the show runs long enough so I'll see it a fifth time with whoever might replace Peters. And I'm already considering seeing the show on tour next winter, with Betty Buckley as Dolly!