What do we need another review of Hello, Dolly! for? To tell you that the shows a classic? Hardly. To describe the score? Not so much. To talk about it culturally, as an icon of its era, the mid 60s, and as the perhaps archetypal Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart musical? You know that already.
No, the reason for a new review of Hello, Dolly! from a source such as myself, who won’t tell you anything historical or analytical that you could possibly need to know, much as I could deliver that, is because the current revival is destined to go down in theatrical history as one of those Holy Grail moments that grand legitimate bragging rights to anyone who has seen it. Like the original Follies or Laurette Taylor’s portrayal of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. And that’s because it is the ideal synthesis of pitch-perfect sensibility infusing an inspired production surrounding a superstar performer giving 110% of herself in a legendary performance.
Bette Midler is the perfect Dolly. With what deceptively seems like ease, she molds of the Midler persona to the character such that she’s naughty but never salacious, sexy but never explicit, adorable but never…no, she’s just always adorable. Her interplay with the audience is as delightful as her interplay with her fellow actors and always perfectly proportionate to the stylistic permissions of the event. As to her fellow actors, they are all not only extraordinary, but extraordinarily onboard as foils for Midler. And holding his own as a costar who manages the miracle of both being an ideal romantic foil as well as a fully defined presence of equal comic prowess is David Hyde Pierce as the stuffy skinflint Horace Vandergelder. However versatile Mr. Pierce may have seemed in previous roles in the theater or on television, virtually nothing he has done before prepares you for the extreme leap away from the familiar or even the vaguely related, that he demonstrates here. What marks his Vandergelder as different from those of his famous predecessors, such as David Burns and Eddie Bracken and Max Showalter, is that they we’re playing extensions of themselves as old timey veterans of burlesque and vaudeville style. Pierce, on the other hand, puts forth that sensibility not as an amplification of the Pierce persona, but as a brilliantly structured and wholly conceived character construct. Special mention should also go to those playing the younger comic romantic couples, Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin (who might well have been cast as the expected usual suspects in their roles) plus newcomers Taylor Trensch and Beanie Feldstein.