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Concert Reviews:
"Hello, Dolly!" is back where it belongs, gloriously, at the Fisher Theatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2019

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"Hello, Dolly!" is an oldie, yes. But in its current incarnation at Detroit's Fisher Theatre, the Broadway classic is even better than a goodie.

The production, launched by the 1964 musical's Tony Award-winning 2017 revival with Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce, is indeed old school all the way, from the plush, light-lined red curtain to the first swells of orchestral overture to the lavish period costuming and athletic choreography. The show does have a proverbial new coat of paint and, of course, the benefits of contemporary theatrical technology, but what makes this "Dolly!" definitive and worthy of equally old school plaudits -- fabulous and delightful come to mind -- is the same flesh, blood and sweat equity that made it a sensation more than five and a half decade ago on both stage and screen.

Give credit for that to timeless source material. Jerry Herman's music and Michael Stewart's book still have a robust soul that reaches beyond "Dolly!'s" ubiquitous title song, and Jerry Zaks' contemporary direction makes 1885 Manhattan and Yonkers feel both like a current day rom-com as well as a trip back in time. But "Dolly!" really works because of its cast, a Broadway pedigreed ensemble that raises the theater roof in just about every one of its scenes.

And that includes more than just its stellar leads. The "Dolly!" cast inhabits the sets with engaging personality and energy, and the hallmark production pieces, up to and including "The Waiters' Gallop" and a vivacious "Hello, Dolly!," are so deftly executed you wish you had a rewind button to see them again -- and maybe again.

Carolee Carmello is nothing short of wonderful as Dolly Gallagher Levi, the widow turned, in her own words, meddler, happy to serve in any capacity -- matchmaker, financial advisor, mandolin and dance instructor, attorney. Carmello nails the fine line between Dolly's sparkling exterior and her inner longing as she courts wealthy curmudgeon Horace Vandergelder (Bolton) and integrates herself back into a society she left after the death of her husband. Her chemistry with the convincingly crusty Bolton is genuine, and one second act scene in particular -- as Dolly finishes a luxurious meal as a courtroom full of people looks on -- is as captivating a piece of acting as you'll ever see.

Carmello also helps quarterback the first act scene in Mrs. Molly's Hat Shop, a genius comic romp in the hands of Daniel Beeman (Cornelius Hackl), Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns), Analisa Leaming (Malloy) and Chelsea Cree Groen (Minnie Fay), along with Bolton.

There's not a wasted second or ounce of fat in the show, and when "Hello, Dolly!" reaches its happy ending (not exactly a spoiler, is it?) you don't want to say goodbye. "Dolly!" is truly back where it belongs, and where it should stay, hopefully, forever.

"Hello, Dolly!" runs through Dec. 1 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. $39 and up. 313-872-1000 or broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

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