Dream Casting Dolly

Dream Casting Dolly

With Bette Midler preparing to sashay down a grand staircase at Harmonia Gardens as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the forthcoming, 2017 revival of Hello, Dolly!, there has been much speculation about who will play her supporting cast. With a wide range of terrific character actors out there, it is fun to assemble our dream casts to support Ms. Midler as she lends her big personality and voice to the matchmaker with a heart of gold and relentless spirit. This production will be something to look forward to.

It is important to remember that Hello, Dolly! is a musical comedy and that it requires able-bodied comedic actors to pull off the farcical situations. What also needs to be kept in mind is that Bette Midler is a BIG star and that the production will need strong, larger-than-life performers to hold their own next to her dominating personality. Each character needs to be carefully cast with a unique, colorful individual who will shine in their own right. For my money, these are the people I'd love to see working with The Divine Miss M as she spins a web of comedy and romance.

Cornelius Hackl: Anthony Rapp

Cornelius in a slightly awkward, full of life, adventurous sales clerk who wants nothing more than to leave the small town of Yonkers, NY for a trip to the big city of Manhattan. There, he wants to kiss a girl for the first time and maybe see the sites. He is both romantic and slightly goofy, a balance that Anthony Rapp could manage in spades. Rapp also has a bright, slightly cartoonish tenor that would bring both gusto and humor to songs like “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, “Dancing”, and “Elegance”, and a warmth that would make “It Only Takes a Moment” a highlight of the show.  

Irene Molloy: Ana Gasteyer

On paper, someone might say that Gasteyer has aged out of the role of the quirky but lonely hat shop proprietress who is tired of being a widow and who is looking for love. However, Ana Gasteyer is still as lovely as she has ever been, she looks a lot younger than she actually is, and she has a gorgeous singing voice that would sweeten every nuance of Irene Molloy’s big number “Ribbons Down My Back.” She is also a terrific, subtle comedienne as evidenced by her years on Saturday Night Live, not to mention her recent contribution to the live version of Grease on television. Irene has funny moments and that is sometimes forgotten.

Barnaby Tucker: Andrew Keenan-Bolger

The guy is an adorable ball of twitchy, youthful exuberance, making him the perfect sidekick for Cornelius, the young clerk Barnaby Tucker. Andrew Keenan-Bolger is basically that type of character actor who is born to play colorful sidekicks. He was a delightful “Crutchie” in Newsies. He is poised to come to Broadway in the lead role of Tuck Everlasting where he will most certainly charm audiences even further, but I want to see him in Dolly. He also has one of those rubbery, exaggerated visages that lend themselves perfectly to a wide-eyed goof like Barnaby. Oh…and he can sing. 

Minnie Fay: Annaleigh Ashford

Is there anything that this zany actress cannot pull off in the realm of comedy? Minnie Fay is Irene Molloy’s assistant in the hat shop, and also a speed-talking kook with all kinds of crazy ideas about life and love. Ashford has a real knack for playing a ditz (Legally Blonde, Wicked, You Can’t Take It With You) and she would make Minnie a flittering fun time, especially in her rambling monologue introducing the character. 

Ernestina Money: Jessica Vosk

If you saw Jessica Vosk’s cabaret “You Asked For It” at Joe’s Pub a few weeks ago, you know that this woman is balls-to-the-wall, brazen and brassy. Her comedic timing is spot-on and the woman should someday play Mae West in something…anything! This up-and-coming diva extraordinaire is the perfect choice to play Ernestina Money, the crass and pushy match Dolly makes for half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder. It’s one great scene and that’s it, but Vosk would make a meal out of it. She could also do double time as Midler’s Dolly understudy. She seems like the perfect fill-in and destined to have a Midler-sized career.

Horace Vandergelder: John Lithgow

I saved Horace Vandergelder for last because this may just be the hardest role to fill in this Midler scenario. He needs to be a match for Dolly (and Midler) without drawing too much focus from her. He needs to come across as a somewhat loveable chauvinist and curmudgeon, not exactly an easy task, but very much a part of who the character is. I suggest John Lithgow. Lithgow is great at delivering comedic bluster and grand pomposity. He is a well-known performer but not one who will steal the spotlight (though he may make shine a little brighter). He has a joyously off-beat timing that would play so wonderfully off of Bette Midler’s thrust direct. I believe in these two as a couple and think it would work.

How would you dream cast the forthcoming revival of Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler?

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