When I was 16, I was at the iconic concert where the Divine Miss M lit up a joint on New Years Eve, because it had just become decriminalization. I was witnessing history then and I did so last night as Bette Midler, gave a 125 percent to an audience who adores her. Hello, Dolly! is back on Broadway and so is The Divine Miss M. Lovingly directed by Jerry Zaks, at the Shubert Theatre, musical theatre fans have been given a sherbet gilded Christmas card, as a love letter to Broadway past.
Midler makes her entrance on a cleverly drawn trolley carriage drawn by magical human horses, thanks to Warren Carlyle’s delightful choreography. The town is in pastels that shimmer in color and patterns thanks to Santo Loquasto, as the dancers strut their stuff in “Put On Your Sunday Clothes.”Midler eats up the wild applause, as if it is food to her soul and gives back as good as she gets.
The show revolves around her wanting to marry Horace Vandergelder (David Hyde Pierce) a sourly miser from Yonkers who sees women as cleaning machines. As a matchmaker, Dolly has set him up with Irene Molloy (Kate Baldwin), then later on with Ernestine (Jennifer Simard). Ms. Levi is also helping his niece, Ermengarde (Melanie Moore), get together with Ambrose Kemper (Will Burton), the artist she loves, whom Horace does not approve of, which sends Ermengarde into crying fits. In the meantime, Vandergelder’s two young assistants, Cornelius Hackl (Gavin Creel) and Barnaby Tucker (Taylor Trensch), want more out of life, as all head into New York City. Cornelius (Gavin Creel) and Barnaby, end up in Irene’s hat shop and Minnie Fay (Beanie Feldstein), Irene, Cornelius and Barnaby all fall for each other.
Dolly continually asks her dead husband Ephraim for a sign, so she knows it’s ok to move on. Dolly has engineered things in her favor, because she is lonely, despite that amount of life that is bursting from her seams. As Midler talks about her lost love we see the humanity of the piece, the stark realism and Dolly is us. We too miss our past, the innocents of it. In this show many of us remember our first love of theatre, why we are still in this industry and where Miss M has taken us all these years. “Before the Parade Passes By,” becomes our anthem of where we are now and with Bette at the helm, we cry over the fact that we can still feel joy.
I expect this show to rake in the Tony’s. I am predicting now Best Actress for Miss M, Best revival, Best Director of a musical, Best Orchestrations with noms for David Hyde Pierce, Kate Baldwin and Gavin Creel as well as Warren Carlyle, Santo Loquasto, Natasha Katz and Andy Eichhorn.
By the end of the night with massive smiles on everyones faces the audience sang:
You’re lookin’ swell, Dolly…….I can tell, Dolly
You’re still glowin’…you’re still crowin’…you’re still goin’ strong
What they were really saying was
You’re lookin’ swell, Bette…….I can tell, Bette
You’re still glowin’…you’re still crowin’…you’re still goin’ strong.
Hello, Dolly! Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44th.