By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant
Dolly Gallagher Levi (Betty Buckley) is a middle-aged widow. She supports herself in a myriad of ways but most importantly as a matchmaker in “Hello Dolly.” She likes to say she meddles in other peoples’ affairs but one might say she surpasses that adjective and progresses to “Budinski-level.”
Her current client is Horace Vandergelder (Lewis J. Stadlen), owner of Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed. Horace is humorless and ill-tempered but he is “half a millionaire” (and at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, that’s a very rich man).
Our matronly, meddling, multi-tasker inserts herself into the lives of Ermengarde (Morgan Kirner) and Ambrose (Colin LeMoine). Ambrose, an artist wants to marry Ermengarde, Horace’s niece. Horace is concerned that Ambrose’s vocation won’t properly support his niece.
Horace confides to the feed store employees Cornelius Hackl (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns) that he’s going to be married. He’s off to New York with Dolly to seal the deal with widow Irene Molloy (Analisa Leaming), a millinery shop owner.
Dolly, however, has other ideas! She’s decided to marry Horace so she casually insinuates that Irene’s husband might have died under suspicious circumstances. Once Irene is out of the picture, Dolly has another potential client for Horace, heiress Ernestina Money (Jessica Sheridan). Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching!
Meanwhile back at the feed store Cornelius and Barnaby decide that they, too, need to go to New York. They concoct a plan to close the store and head off to the big city to spend their money on food and girls. Dolly tells them about Irene Molloy and her store assistant, Minnie Fay (Kristen Hahn).
Once all the characters are in New York a cascade of events unwinds – just-missed, unplanned encounters at the millinery store and Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, food bills that aren’t paid, an intervening judge.
Do Dolly and Horace finally get together? Ambrose and Ermengarde? Cornelius and Irene? Barnaby and Minnie?
And for heavens sake, whatever happened to Ernestina Money?
Tony award winner Buckley is one of many actresses who have played Dolly over the years. Her interpretation of the role shines. Her double takes, voice intonations, facial expressions and general movement are right on the mark.
Buckley’s renditions of “Before the Parade Passes by” and Hello Dolly” are powerful.
Stadlen is believable as the irascible Horace and he holds his own with Buckley at their dinner for two at Harmonia Gardens. His delivery of “Penny in My Pocket” is engaging.
Hahn is delightful as the silly millinery store assistant, especially brilliant in her “Mrs. Mortimer and her hat” soliloquy.
Leaming combines a beautiful singing voice with an innate comedic touch.
Both Rouleau and Burns compliment each other with their skillful use of physical humor.
What a well-balanced cast and ensemble.
Praise to choreographer Warren Carlyle for the flawless execution of movement and dance. “The Waiters’ Gallop” is a wonderful example.
Kudos to director Jerry Zaks.
This is the first national tour revival for this always enjoyable musical. It’s still high-octane, charming and funny.
“Hello Dolly” is presented by Pittsburgh CLO at the Benedum Center and runs from August 6 – August 11. For more information, click here.