by SARAH PETREA SCHULTZ
Hello, Dolly! is a sparkling vision in red, beginning with the red velvet curtain framed by a twinkling arch. Act two unveils the lush red and gold of the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, where Dolly stuns in a glittering red gown and headdress during the title number. Finally, an enormous red screen with the iconic white title lettering descends to end the performance.
This production’s technical elements, especially set and costume design (Santo Loquasto), are delightfully over the top. The audience is introduced to Dolly Gallagher Levi (Betty Buckley) as she rides onstage, perched on a carriage pulled by a cleverly engineered horse. Two actors stand in as the animal’s legs; stepping and kicking in time underneath a structured horse torso. This simple device reads as a charmingly self aware homage to the “two actors in a horse costume” trope. Another elaborate and well implemented vehicle caps off the next scene, sending Dolly and Ambrose Kemper (Colin LeMoine) down the tracks to Yonkers with spectacle.
The first costumes to garner individual applause debut in scene 5 during “Put on Your Sunday Clothes.” One by one, the people of Yonkers prance onto stage, each ensemble sporting a unique pattern in blazingly bright colors. The number is a moving art piece, with audience members drinking in the accouterments even as the curtain lowers.
The set, costume, and lighting design- while all impressive individually, are breathtaking when combined. Grandiose as these technical aspects are, they don’t distract from the plot or overshadow the onstage action. The cast’s singing, dancing, and acting are big enough to fill the space and work with the technical elements.
While delivering the classic stage pictures Hello, Dolly! fans crave, this production did not rely on them. The cast had the chops to match the technical splendor. Each singer, dancer, and actor delivered a captivating performance. Several scenes called for almost acrobatic movement- particularly “The Waiters’ Gallop.” Waitstaff leapt, twirled, and climbed- flying across the stage with all manner of food and dish in tow.
Consistently strong vocal and instrumental performances rounded out the show. Buckley’s blend of control and abandon in “So Long Dearie” and Analisa Leaming’s (as Irene Molloy) warm and expressive tone in “Ribbons Down My Back” were particularly affecting.
If the incredible set, costumes, or ensemble work aren’t enough- go see Hello, Dolly! for the superb Betty Buckley. This woman has earned her mile-long list of accolades. Her presence is palpable the moment she steps onstage. Buckley has complete command over this show, and she wields it masterfully. Experience Buckley’s Dolly before it closes on April 28. Call (800) 982-2787 or visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org for tickets and information.