The only thing problematic about seeing The Muny’s “Hello Dolly” is putting aside the images of other actresses who have played Dolly Levi, in particularly Carol Channing and Barbra Streisand. Beth Leavel’s Dolly is more of the Martha Raye vintage, very physical, funnier and less refined. That said, Leavel sells and sings the part nicely and by the end of the evening, she’ll win both you and Horace Vandergelder over. Leavel makes the moments when Dolly is speaking to her late husband into touching little insights into her character.
Co-starring with Beth Leavel is everybody’s favorite leading man, John O’Hurley, as Horace Vandergelder, the well-known Yonkers half-millionaire. Dolly is employed by Horace to find him a suitable wife, but little does he realize Dolly already has and it’s her.
Rob McClure, who gave the funniest performance of the season as Gomez in “The Addams Family,” returns in this company as Cornelius Hackl, Vandergelder’s lowly store clerk who just wants a night off in the New York City so he can kiss a girl. It’s a featured part that McClure almost turns into a star turn.
Direction by Rob Ruggiero and Choreography by Ralph Perkins make this the liveliest “Dolly” to ever grace The Muny’s wide expanse.. (Yes, I’ve seen them all.)
Based on a play by one of my favorite writers, Thornton Wilder, this production of “Hello Dolly” has a little of the “Our Town” message and landmark Broadway tunes like “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Before the Parade Passes By.” It even has a spectacular marching band at the end of both Acts, courtesy of The O’Fallon Township High School Marching Panthers.
Like everything The Muny has done this season, “Hello Dolly” is an over-achiever. It’s obvious and it’s wonderful.