Hello Dolly: Welcoming Back a Classic

The role famously identified with Carol Channing and Barbra Streisand takes a new, vibrant incarnation in the hands of Tony award-winning Broadway legend, Betty Buckley at the Hollywood Pantages Theater.

Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly.” Photo: Julia Cervantes

From her celebrated appearance in the opening number to her stately staircase descent during the title song, Buckley beams with the enthusiasm and energy of a far younger performer even as she captures the gravitas of a middle-aged widow as Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s meddling heroine, Dolly Levi. The ultimate arranger of “things”, Dolly has established herself as a fairly successful matchmaker till now, and her greatest challenge is to nab her latest client, feed and grain, half-a-millionaire tycoon, Horace Vandergelder (Lewis J. Stadlen). In a touching monologue to her late husband, Ephraim Levi, Dolly confesses how she’s gotten tired of hustling, of living hand-to-mouth. But far from being a typical gold-digger, Dolly’s got a heart of gold. She simply wants to help Horace do what Ephraim taught her – to spread his money around like manure, so it can encourage young things to grow.

Betty Buckley and Lewis J. Stadlen in “Hello, Dolly!” Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Stadlen, too, shines as the penny-pinching grouch desperately trying to find a younger wife and overlooking an obvious match in Dolly. His voice is impressive, and his comedic timing reminiscent of Walter Matthau who played the role in the movie version. It’s a credit to Buckley that one wonders how the mature role of Dolly could have been played by an all-too-young, 26-year old Streisand.  She straddles comedy and tragedy seamlessly, in one scene, drinking gravy from a tureen as though it were champagne from a slipper and in another, crooning “Before The Parade Passes By” melancholically and all alone at the very edge of the stage .

The production is nothing less than a roaring extravaganza packed with exciting dance numbers, a memorable songbook that the audience is able to identify from the first notes, and a stunningly talented ensemble. It’s so nice to have you back where you belong, Dolly.  Here, at the Pantages.

— Victor Riobo

Hello Dolly is playing at the Hollywood Pantages through February 17th. Gets tickets HERE.