Review: “Hello, Dolly!” in San Francisco

Anyone going to a performance of Hello, Dolly! – running now at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco through March 17 – with an appetite for an enlightened look at male/female relationships is likely to leave quite hungry. The current national tour of the 2017 revival of the 1964 Broadway smash based on Thorton Wilder’s 1955 revision of his 1938 play extrapolated from an Austrian playwright’s 1842 extension of an English dramatists 1835 one-act (Got all that?) reflects the then-common attitudes towards a women’s place in society and the home.

Anyone going to a performance of Hello, Dolly! with an appetite to see a Broadway legend at work, or hear magnificent musical classics delivered with gusto, or see a bevy of athletic dancers spring across the stage in spirited numbers based on Gower Champion’s original choreography, or be dazzled by the color and craftsmanship at work in Santo Loquasto’s scenic and costume design, is likely to leave the theatre with their appetite satiated.

Tony-winner Betty Buckley (Cats, Sunset Boulevard) plays Dolly Gallagher Levi, a matchmaker and jill-of-all-trades in 19th century New York engaged by the well-known Yonkers half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Lewis J. Stadlen) to find him a bride, an assignment which Dolly intends to fill herself. Sub-plots involve Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde (Morgan Kirner) and her paramour Ambrose Kemper (Garett Hawe) and Feed Store clerks Cornelius (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby (Jess LeProtto).

Lewis J. Stadlen, Betty Buckley and Ensemble

At age 71, Buckley does her damnedest to make the part made famous by Carol Channing (at age 42) her own, and succeeds to an extent. It’s obvious and understandable that her choreography has been limited and that she lacks the vocal power to deliver some of the musical’s biggest moments (“Before the Parade Passes By” was disappointingly flat) but she really delivers in the show’s quieter moments when she engages with the memories of her late husband.

The supporting cast is outstanding with Rouleau and LeProtto really scoring as the clerks unleashed in New York City and Analisa Leaming and Kristen Hahn as the objects of their affections.

MVP of this production goes to Stadlen, a reliable Broadway performer for the past 50 years who often toils in the anonymity common to great character actors. His eyebrows are as expressive as anything else on stage.  

Go ahead, roll your eyes during “It Takes a Woman” but don’t be surprised to find yourself cheering after “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “The Waiters’ Gallop” and, at the very least, smiling through almost everything else.    

‘Hello, Dolly! ’runs through March 17 at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., San Francisco. Dates and times vary. $56–$256. 888.746.1799.

Photos by Juliete Cervantes

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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