Hello, Dolly! shines with a poignant performance from Betty Buckley


Hello, Dolly! is a celebrated American musical. In the current touring production, Betty Buckley brilliantly portrays the lead in this heartwarming show.

Hello, Dolly! has seen many numerous stage versions throughout the years. The most recent revival was a huge hit on Broadway and is now on a national tour, currently playing Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, Florida. In the current production, Broadway legend Betty Buckley adds her nuanced take to this iconic musical character.

While Broadway shows have trended toward current music influences, diverse casts and socially relevant topics, the late 19th-century story of a matchmaker/jack of all trades Dolly Gallagher Levi has a vital message in today’s turbulent times. Although a matchmaker might not be common now, the desire to find love and companionship is just as important today as it was then. Even though Dolly might give a nudge or two in the right direction, these characters, like everyone, desire someone who can fulfill a hole in their lives.

This current touring production is based on the 2017 Tony award-winning revival. This musical brings old-school production numbers, costumes and scenes to the stage. From the bustles on the dresses to the dapper top hats, the vibrant visuals vault across the stage with exuberance. The audience is constantly seeing a new aspect to each carefully choreographed scene. Whether it is a train rolling onto the stage to an elegant staircase, every little detail is exquisite.

Hello, Dolly! National Tour, Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center.

Since many of the songs are familiar, the high-energy, vivacious dance numbers leave the audience astounded. From quick steps to soaring leaps, these actors cultivate the enthusiasm of the story. The choreographed dances are almost like another character in the story.

Of course, Hello, Dolly! is driven by its characters. From Horace’s desire to find a new wife (aka housekeeper) to Cornelius’ wish to find excitement (and maybe kiss a girl), the characters showcase the universality of wanting laughter, love and someone with whom to enjoy those special moments. While universal ideals, the pursuit of them aren’t always as easy.

As the title states, this musical is focused on Dolly, played in this production by Betty Buckley. For many theater fans, the role of Dolly will always be tied to Carol Channing. Her highly comedic take on Dolly isn’t the only approach to this character. In this production, Buckley’s nuanced approach makes Dolly even more enduring.

While each comedic moment is met with a wink and a nod, the poignant moments bring Buckley’s performance into the audience’s heart. She conveys a learned wisdom yet is still wistful. As she talks to her late husband, the audience connects to the loving memory and wills her to have happiness again.

Even at the end of act two, as Dolly comments on the relevancy of too much money, there is a sense of this morale applies today. Not meant to be preachy; instead is it a cautionary tale from a woman who has experienced it all. It is almost an optimistic warning. Maybe everyone could benefit from some positivity being spread around.

Hello, Dolly! National Tour, Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes, photo provided by Dr. Phillips Center

For the Broadway fan, Buckley delivers in this performance. The conviction in her voice is strong and she commands the stage. Even as her iconic voice in “Memory” plays in my head, her delivery in “Before the Parade Passes By” resonates long after the curtain falls. She completes this role in a way that makes the audience see the wistful side to Dolly. She has definitely made this role her own.

As the audience anticipates the infamous “Hello, Dolly!” song in act two, the anticipation is just as exciting as her ultimate appearance. Walking down the staircase, everyone feels that moment of elation. Who doesn’t want that moment where they find their moment of joy, part of their happiness? It is relatable as much as it is endearing.

While Dolly might drive the show, the other characters are equally as intriguing. Horace Vandergelder, played by Lewis J. Stadlen, offers more than just punchy one-liners. Often that tough façade hides his softer side. During the song, “Penny in my Pocket,” the hardened exterior cracks a little and makes him even more likable. Don’t forget to watch to see what happens to that penny later in the show.

Although the two older characters drive the show, Cornelius Hackl (played by Nic Rouleau) and Irene Molloy (played by Analisa Leaming) bring the enthusiasm for future. Balancing big belting numbers with emotional, softer interludes, they seem to will the audience to want more, too. Whether it is to dream bigger or to love harder, these performances inspire the audience to push beyond the comfortable.

The current touring production of Hello, Dolly! is definitely a must-see show. From the Broadway fan who wants to see Betty Buckley in a legendary stage role to the theater newbie who is looking to embrace a piece of theater history, this show delivers on all accounts.

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Hello, Dolly! is playing at the Dr. Phillips Center through Dec. 2. Check out the Hello, Dolly! On Tour webpage to see when Dolly is coming to a town near you.