The hottest ticket right now on Broadway is Hello, Dolly! starring the brassy and brilliant Bette Midler.
Hello, Dolly! follows matchmaker Dolly Levi in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. A widow, Levi is finally setting her sights on a match of her own, the very wealthy and sour Horace Vandergelder played by David Hyde Pearce. The two are a delight together, but the audience is showing up for The Divine Miss M.
Getting her start at the gay bathhouses in the Upper West Side during the late 1960s, Midler is more New York City than a pastrami on rye sandwich or the Empire State. The same may be said about the character Dolly Levi, who has also been played by leading ladies Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and Barbra Streisand.
While Midler joins great company, she makes the role her own.
Midler’s comedic timing is exquisite. During the second act, she takes a bit with a turkey leg many other actresses would let fall by the wayside. Midler drags it out and milks every second with hilarity and ease, stopping the show gnawing on nothing but a bone. The audience eats up every crumb.
The audience lept to their feet a few times when I saw the show last week, especially during the second act when she wowed the room with an insane amount of energy during the show’s titular anthem. Just as there is nothing conventional about Bette Midler, there is nothing conventional about her portrayal of Dolly Levi.
Nominated for seven Tony Awards, the revival of the musical is sold-out well into the autumn. NPR just released a very special preview of the cast recording. Live, Midler’s voice holds up, but the cast recording showcases the diva’s instrument especially refined and brilliant.
Of course, there is nothing better than seeing it in person. But many people may have to settle for the recording, as Midler is set to exit the show this December.