By David A. Rosenberg
Those who’ve never seen a professional production of “Hello, Dolly” please raise your hands. Thank you. You may order tickets to the mildly entertaining, two-dimensional revival of this tuneful blockbuster at Goodspeed. Others are dismissed. Go home.
It’s all in the tone -- and the tone is off the mark. The production is so remote that you feel you must be living in some mid-West bubble.
Klea Blackhurst’s Dolly comes across as someone who’s never even heard of Fawteenth Street. From her first entrance bustle down the aisle, handing out calling cards that tout her supposed expertise in everything, until nearly the end of the show, Blackhurst is soft and cuddly. Although she sings wonderfully, there’s not a devious, scheming bone in her body.
No one says that director Daniel Goldstein can’t go his own way, giving us a Dolly who, unlike most predecessors in the role, is easy-going instead of tough, a pushover instead of pushy. Blackhurst’s Dolly is not someone who “arranges things,” not an engine so revved up she’d run over anything in her path.
At Goodspeed, librettist Michael Stewart’s jokes suffer from insufficient set-ups, falling flat, except for the penultimate courtroom scene. As action is held up while Dolly comically devours potatoes and eats an ear of corn typewriter fashion, at last everyone realizes they’re not doing “Sweeney Todd.” From Dolly’s “So Long, Dearie” until the end, the trajectory is upwards.
Another plus is Ashley Brown as Irene Malloy whose “Ribbons Down My Back” is filled with yearning, regret and hope. As Mrs. Rose, Melodie Wolford has the N. Y. accent down pat. (Significantly, she’s Blackhurst’s understudy.) Tony Sheldon works hard as Dolly’s intended, the gruff Horace Vandergelder.
Kelli Barclay successfully reproduces Gower Champion’s original high-stepping choreography. Adrian W. Jones’ scenic design and Wade Laboissonniere’s costumes are attractive, although Jason Lyons’ lighting is harsh.
But the evening’s real hero is Jerry Herman’s marvelous score, the aforementioned songs plus “Before the Parade Passes By,” “It Only Takes a Moment,” “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and, of course, the title number.
For the record, “Hello, Dolly” played 2,844 performances in its initial run, going through a slew of stars. Some succeeded, some didn’t. So it goes.