'Hello, Dolly' takes audience to simpler times

Review: The touring production of Broadway hit 'Hello, Dolly' features over-the-top, endearing performances and classic tunes audiences have grown to know and love.

Originally drawing inspiration from Johann Nestroy’s musical Einen Jux will er sich machen (He Will Go on a Spree), Hello, Dolly! ignited a spree in 1964, consecutively running on Broadway for 2,844 performances and winning 10 Tony Awards.

Now, Big League Productions has brought this classic musical to the OnCenter’s Crouse Hinds Theater. Hello, Dolly! presents a great opportunity for people in CNY to experience the debaucherous and boisterous good old days of New York City.

Sally Struthers, who won three Emmys and two Golden Globes for her role as Gloria in All in the Family, starred in this production. Her comedically clumsy performance inspired a lot of shouting and cheering. Also, with Bob Richard’s choreography perfectly matching each number, and with director Jeffery B. Moss’ perfect execution of both stage design and scene control, this show turned out to be a great success.

The show starts off with a grand parade that represents how New York City is falling for Dolly, a brilliant and resourceful matchmaker. She plays a hand in practically everything. Struthers acts out this almost omnipotent figure so vividly that her redundant comic style is suddenly forgivable and even unexpectedly effective.

Through the very first number, “Call On Dolly,” the audience is immediately drawn into the light-hearted atmosphere, where everyone welcomes, likes and depends on Dolly. It’s such a warm and bright world that there is no such thing as worry, displeasure or failure, as long as Dolly is in control. In Dolly’s world, glamorous ladies are in the arms of proper gentlemen, luxuriant carriages shuttle through busy streets, and magnificent buildings stand with shiny neon lights on. It’s the typical, glorious old days of New York City, when people simply enjoyed the pleasure that life can bring.

The millionaire of small town Yonkers, Horace's, (John O’Creagh) trip to the city for romance triggers his two employees’ bold dream of going as well. The employees, Cornelius (Matt Wolfe) and Tucker (Garett Hawe), stand on a table, sing loud and dance out their humble but real desires: visiting a museum, eating a big meal and kissing a girl.

Although Dolly’s matchmaking mission in the city doesn’t go as planned, unexpected love is found between misplaced couples. Cornelius opens his heart to the elegant widow Irene (Lauren Blackman) through this sentimental and soulful number. Like a contagion, Tucker realizes his affection for Minnie (Halle Morse), and even Horace starts to develop romantic feelings for Dolly. All of this happens in the court, which cannot be more noisy or messy. Nevertheless, the melody reaches out of the melodrama and touches deep into the audience members’ hearts.

"Hello, Dolly," the theme song, once performed by Louis Armstrong and ranked on top of American pop music charts, is so intoxicating that the whole theater boils up. The unapproved marriage between Horace’s niece (Hilary Fingerman) and the artist Ambrose (Brad Frentte) gets approved; Horace's unforgivable work-skipping employees become acceptable; and the impossible romance between Dolly and Horace actually happens. In this number, with the exaggerated but passionate dance moves of Dolly and waiters in the Garden Restaurant, the show achieves its peak, both emotionally and spiritually.

Traveling full circle, Hello, Dolly! surely achieves its goal of giving people a good time. The catchy lyrics and rhythms, vigorous and positive energies, and Struthers’ comical performance ensures the success of the show. It provides a perfect get-away from reality, allowing the audience to enjoy the relaxing moment and to laugh at the sophistication and innocence in themselves.

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