Review: ‘Hello, Dolly!’ at Shubert Theatre

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From the moment she appeared on stage, the 72-year-old Midler owned the show. Indeed, Channing, now 96 herself, told Playbill magazine that Midler will be wonderful and that “the audience will love her for it!”

And it did. When Dolly made her entrance at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, itself modeled after Lüchow’s on 14th Street, where prancing waiters sing the title song, the audience gave Midler a two-minute standing ovation, something that, as one of the ushers told me, happens at every performance. Indeed practically everything she does stops the show, relegating recollections of Carol Channing (who originated the role on Broadway) and Barbra Streisand (who played Dolly in the 1969 film) to the realm of fond theater memories, at least for the moment.

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Midler, perhaps channelling her inner Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, brings her shtick to the stage in a manner that keeps the audience wanting more. Whether charming a train conductor, sitting alone at a table at the Harmonia Gardens, or ignoring the rest of the cast while polishing off an expensive dinner in a manner reminiscent of the I Love Lucy “Job Switching” episode. You know, the one where Lucy and Ethel stuff chocolates into their mouths (and into other places) to keep up with their workflow on a candy factory’s packaging line.

From the songs to the colors to the real train to Yonkers, this is a big, bright, and brassy musical, best captured by the sentiment uttered by Horace Vandergelder in submission when he proposes to Dolly: “Wonderful woman!” he says. The audience agreed most enthusiastically.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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