Hello Dolly! Opening Night at Pantages Theatre – Many Stars Along Hollywood Boulevard

Once holding the record for the greatest number of Tony Awards, Hello Dolly! opened at the Pantages with many celebrities in attendance. The most poignant was actually the star that Ray Davies sang about, on the sidewalk directly in front of the Pantages entrance, where Carol Channing’s star was festooned with roses.
The revival remained true to its roots, evoking 1895-era New York through the lens of the musical’s original 1964 opening. Although the production originally had several troubled out of town openings before its resounding success starting on Broadway in 1964, the latest revival is well-polished. It has won 4 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical (and the distinction of the highest priced face value for a ticket when Bette Midler wowed the audiences on Broadway).

Betty Buckley stars in the title role, evoking a brassy confidence throughout. By the time her eponymous signature song is assayed midway through the second act, Buckley has ingratiated herself with the audience.

Betty Buckley

The storyline revolves around Dolly’s efforts as a matchmaker, but mostly she is acting as her own client. With her sights set on the very eligible “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, Dolly’s schemes are clever. The book by Michael Stewart (based on Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker”) interweaves several story lines with aplomb.
But it is mostly the song and dance routines that mark the musical’s longevity. The songs by Jerry Herman include clever wordplay among the enjoyable melodies. (Indeed, the original cast recording reached #1 on the Billboard album charts in June 1964, before the British Invasion changed everything).

The original choreography by Gower Champion has been invigorated in the current revival by Warren Carlyle, and well executed by the fine-tuned cast.

Quite remarkable were the costumes. For the “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” scene at the Yonkers train station the cast was dressed in bold colors last seen at a macaroon or sherbet shop.

In fine form were Lewis J. Stadlen as the shopkeeper Vangelder, as well as his two errant shopkeepers Jess LeProtto and Nic Rouleau. The former was especially nimble in several dance moves.
There were three memorable stage sets, starting with Vangelder’s Hay and Feed store. The multilevel set afforded the cast much room for clever movement.
The Harmonia Gardens set evoked an elegant restaurant, a fitting locale for Dolly’s return. The well-oiled waiters had excellent timing for their acrobatic dance moves, evoking their exuberance at Dolly’s return.
The subsequent mayhem is litigated in a courtroom that is designed with intriguing angles and perspectives. Kudos to Santo Loquasto for the evocative stage and costume design.

Veteran director Jerry Zaks kept the entire production on the rails, and a splendid time was had by all.


Tickets available here

(Photos by Julieta Cervantes)


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.