Bette Midler won our love in “Hello, Dolly!” By simply wiggling her pinky finger. Donna Murphy, that has slid into Dolly Gallagher Levi’s trim small boots while Bette is about holiday (and will continue to perform the job for a single operation a week after Midler yields), needs to work harder, making our attachment with a superbly acted, powerfully sung and earnestly felt functionality. On top of that, she’s the comic chops to laugh her way into this iconic function.
From the short 3 months because it started, this pristine creation of Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical, at a staging from director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Warren Carlyle (using a hat-tip into Gower Champion’s unique production), is becoming simpler, slicker and much more confident of itself. The choral singing has attained celestial standing, the waiters in the Harmonia Gardens are in full gallop, and each of the performances have increased and thrived. (David Hyde Pierce’s comic gifts to the function of the Yonkers skinflint Horace Vandergelder have us in stitches.) Much Santo Loquasto’s tasty sherbet-colored outfits seem brighter and tastier.
Under the musical direction of Andy Einhorn, a great pit orchestra ends up one after another of Herman’s melodic series tunes, every one of which earns a collective gasp of delighted recognition in the crowd. “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” brilliantly choreographed, had the home captivated. Kate Baldwin wins hearts together with the amorous “Ribbons Down My Back.” Along with also the squealing young’uns played with Taylor Trensch (like Barnaby Tucker), Melanie Moore (Ermengarde) and Jennifer Simard (Ernestina) are proficient at getting laughs.
Nonetheless, it is not till a soul-baring Dolly steels herself to bid farewell to the soul of her late husband and gives herself up to “Before the Parade Passes By” that Murphy has a opportunity to show what she is made of — pure gold.
Leading to the tune with a nostalgic trip to the old area where Dolly and her late husband had discovered joy, Murphy shows the depths of Dolly’s very real worries about being a widow of a specific age made to live by her own wits to live. She has always been a believing actor, and now she lets us watch Dolly’s battle with the frightening thought of coming from hiding and rejoining the human race.
Pierce has a fantastic time enjoying Horace Vandergelder, thankfully roaring in his clerks (“Do not forget to put the lid onto the sheep dip!”) And smugly divulging the secret of his achievement from the Act II opener, “Penny in My Pocket.” As his senior clerk, Cornelius Hackl, Gavin Creel shows the terrific form that won him this year’s Tony for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. There are no slouches in the remainder of the well-drilled business, either.
Audiences might have flocked to the revival due to the divine Miss M, but Murphy’s celebrity performance and the general excellence of this production should meet anyone who enjoys a large, Broadway series and is considering the musical as a favorite art form. With its attractive book and memorable show tunes, “Dolly” supports the theatrical type of that Herman (who turns 86 tomorrow) is a master. It may even be the most bizarre Broadway musical, the sort of audience-pleaser which won’t ever go out of style.