Thursday, 6 March 2008

Hello Dolly - National Tour

By Jerry Herman & Michael Stewart
National Tour (Lowry Theatre Review)
Reviewed By Steve Burbridge

Just ask any aficionado of musical theatre and they’ll tell you that Hello, Dolly! is the biggest show-stopper in the history of the genre. It has all the necessary ingredients required of a classic musical: a wonderful story, memorable songs and one of the most iconic characters ever created – Dolly Gallagher Levi!

This nostalgic comedy musical follows the exploits of the widow and professional matchmaker, Dolly, as she sets her sights on conquering a tight fisted Yonkers merchant and becoming “the second Mrs Vandergelder.” Anita Dobson is a doyenne of hit West End musicals, having starred in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, The Pajama Game and Budgie to name only a few, and she inhabits the larger-than-life character of Dolly Levi effortlessly and with great success. Rather than emulating the performances of legendary predecessors including Barbra Streisand, Carol Channing and Ethel Merman, Miss Dobson stamps her own indomitable mark upon the role and the result is a triumphant interpretation of Dolly that is multi-faceted and carefully crafted. She relishes the opportunity to shine as a comedienne and performs her musical numbers with gusto, her mezzo-soprano voice suiting them well. In addition to the expected sassiness and flamboyance, Miss Dobson also explores the sensitivity and vulnerability of the character. The monologue scenes in which Dolly talks to her late husband, Ephraim, have a poignancy and tenderness that provide moments of genuine pathos.

Darren Day, David McAlister and Louise English lead the fabulous supporting cast of over forty performers, and they each deliver consummate performances. A few minor glitches that occurred during scene changes might have threatened to detract from the overall success of the production, but some rapid and ingenious improvisation from the undaunted company ensured that the technical difficulties were covered almost seamlessly. Darren Day, as Cornelius Hackl, works hard throughout and his comedy double act with Hamilton Sargent as Barnaby Tucker is particularly enjoyable. Louise English, as Irene Molloy, exudes grace and charm and has a beautiful singing voice. Her rendition of ‘Ribbons Down My Back’ was spine-tingling. David McAlister is wonderful as the tight-fisted Vandergelder providing the perfect foil for Miss Dobson’s effervescent and ebullient Dolly. Hamilton Sargent was an energetic and enthusiastic Barnaby Tucker and Amanda Salmon was deliciously over-the-top as the screaming, snorting shop assistant, Minnie Faye. Credit should also be given to Christopher Marlowe and Carol Ball, each appearing as an array of cameo characters.

The ensemble added the necessary pizzazz to the big numbers and they executed David Kort’s choreography with style and precision. The Waiter’s Gallop was a breath-taking sight to behold and the audience responded with rapturous applause. Likewise, the title number oozed with sophistication. Add to this the panache of the orchestra, under the supervision of David Beer, stunning sets and slick direction from Chris Colby and the result is a high calibre production with a glitzy tone, proving that ‘Hello, Dolly’ is still a magical musical masterpiece that sends every member of the family home with a smile on their face.
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