Sunny ‘Dolly!’ lights up the Opera House stage

Betty Buckley and the National Touring Company of “Hello, Dolly!” Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

BOSTON – It is a musical with the sunniest of dispositions, touring triumphantly around the country the country at a time when very dark musicals are all the rage.

It is surely a production of another time and era, using as its source material Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker” and finding its way as a musical to Broadway in 1964, with 10 Tony Awards, a record that stood for 37 years.

“Hello, Dolly!” served as a theatrical annuity of sorts for the late Carol Channing, was a hit movie with Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthaiu and in its most recent Tony Award-winning revival served as a starring vehicle for Bette Midler, who also won a Tony Award for her performance, one of four the show won.

That production has been packed up and sent on the road and on a national tour now performing at the Citizens Bank Opera House through Aug. 25.

Now it is Betty Buckley’s turn to don the dazzling red gown and matching red feather hat of widow Dolly Gallagher Levi, and she is more than up to the task, melding the charisma and star power that she imbues Dolly with alongside a voice that remains, at 72, one of the more powerful instruments in musical theater.

Analisa Leaming in the national tour of “Hello, Dolly!” Photo: Julieta Cervantes

She comes with the experience of having played two divas of a different sorts: Grizabella the Glamour Cat in “Cats,” bringing the house down each night with “Memory,” and as the faded actress Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest work.

Herman wrote some of the most eminently hummable and memorable tunes to ever grace Broadway, and here they roll over you in waves: the bouncy, funny “It Takes a Woman”; two joyous production numbers, “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Before the Parade Passes Me By”; the famous, fabulous title tune; and, finally, “It Only Takes a Moment,” gloriously performed by Nick Rouleau as Cornelius Hackl and Analisa Leaming as Irene Molloy.

Herman’s tunes are exquisitely performed by a cast with nary a weak link in the bunch – Rouleau as Hackl and Leaming as Malloy, again, are particularly strong – and the orchestra with 19 pieces gives full voice to the score, giving a true Broadway feel to the touring production

Lewis J. Stadlen is just right as the deliciously crusty, curmudgeonly and caustic “half-millionaire” widower Horace Vandergelder, his impeccable comic timing at work in his battle of wits with an estimable opponent in one Dolly Gallagher Levi. Stadlen often finds himself delightfully Dolly ties him in knots.

Levi, of course, is supposed to be finding Vandergelder a wife in her role as a matchmaker, but has targeted him for himself, despite his deserved reputation for being notoriously tight with a buck.

His long-suffering workers Hackl and Barnaby Tucker (Sean Burns), trapped in the dungeon of Vandergelder’s store, are anxious to live a little and have an adventure in New York City, and find themselves in Irene’s hat store, where Cornelius with Irene and Barnaby is entranced by Irene’s Minnie Fay. Adventure and love ensure.

Along the way  there is also As Vandergelder’s howling, unhappy young niece Ermengarde (Morgan Kinzer), 17, about to become an “old maid,” but hoping to find happiness in the arms of Ambrose Kemper (Colin LeMoine), whom Vandergelder hates.

 “Hello, Dolly!” is directed by Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks, the winner of four Tonys for his work and quite simply one of the most accomplished directors of musicals  in history.

Warren Carlyle’s choreography pays tribute to Gower Champion, the original director and choreographer.  The cast of 33 allows the production numbers to be staffed in their full glory, including the glorious 14th Street Parade, the railroad car leaving Yonkers,  and, of course the iconic “galloping waiters” number in the Harmonia  Gardens restaurant.

The production values are commensurate with a Tony-winning revival on Broadway. The gorgeous pastels of Santo Loquasto’s Tony Award-winning costumes fairly leap off the stage, and his sepia-toned backdrops convey the nostalgia of the turn of the century New York City. He also aces the organized chaos that is Vandergelder’s Feed and Grain in what was then the country town of Yonkers.

“Hello, Dolly!” may be of a Broadway of days gone by, but iconic tunes, dazzling choreography and lovely costumes, lighting and sound never go out of style. Welcome back, Dolly.

“Hello, Dolly!,” music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart. Directed by Jerry Zaks. Choreography, Warren Carlyle; sets and costumes, Santo Loquasto; lighting, Natasha Katz; sound, Scott Lehrer; music direction, Robert Billig. Through Aug. 25 at the Citizens Bank Opera House.

The company of the national tour of “Hello, Dolly!”. Photo: Julietta Cervantes