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.
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.
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.