Review: Hello, Dolly! – The New Broadway Cast Recording
I am a proponent of joy and escapism in the musical theatre, especially in these days where we can use some diversion and smiles. The success of the revival of Hello, Dolly! starring Ms. Bette Midler is proof that there are people out there who agree with my sentiments. It is for this reason that I was eagerly anticipating the New Broadway Cast Recording of Hello, Dolly! Eager, but also hesitant, worried that this musical, with one of the most underappreciated scores would not be preserved with as much spirit and enthusiasm as the original cast recording, or the divine Pearl Bailey led version.
My fears have been assuaged.
The New Broadway Cast Recording of Hello, Dolly!, produced with sublime expertise by Masterworks Broadway, crackles and pops, washing over listeners with a tidal wave of the very joy I long for. To begin, the new arrangements for the revival by Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Don Pippin (vocal arrangements), and David Chase (dance arrangements) give the score an urgency and an emotional depth that gets at heart of what this musical is all about. Captured here, each song resonates with an instrumentation that gets your heart thumping and stirs your soul with a vitality and zest that make this recording an event. From the thundering anticipation evoked in the final verse of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” to the reflective tentativeness in “Ribbons Down My Back”, each number is a tantalizing display of the importance orchestrators bring to telling a musical’s story.
The supporting players shine on this album, thanks especially to the casting of two of Broadway’s most-reliable talents. Gavin Creel as the adventurous, love-seeking Cornelius Hackl, sings his two big numbers “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment” with a vigor and fierce jubilance that is only topped by his electrified tenor. Kate Baldwin, as Irene Molloy, a lonely hat shop owner and Cornelius’s love-interest, coaxes and caresses the yearning “Ribbons Down My Back” with her glorious vocal cords and deft interpretation. This recording features the now definitive version of the song, a showtune that is, in my estimation, one of the most-perfect ever written for the theatre. David Hyde Pierce as the crusty and cranky Horace Vandergelder, the spendthrift, half-a-millionaire who the title character has her sights set-upon, is delightfully droll in his Act I number “It Takes a Woman”. His Act II song “Penny in My Pocket”, which has been sandwiched in to give the star more to sing, is well-executed, if unnecessary.
The real question, of course, is how does Bette Midler fare as the matchmaker and catalyst of Hello, Dolly!? Everyone knows the lady has a brass set of pipes that inject humor, pathos and pizazz into everything she sings. She doesn’t fail us here. The song “So Long, Dearie” was where I particularly expected her to shine, but her most heartfelt and effective number is the Act One closer “Before the Parade Passes By.” Midler manages to sing the song with her usual vocal power, but she also uses her technique to shape emotion and to incite empathy for her character. She is rollicking good fun in the musical’s title song, easily flirting and playfully keeping the repetitive (we love it) tune interesting and building. She succeeds at always being the engine that propels this cast recording into greatness.
The New Broadway Cast Recording of Hello, Dolly! is required listening for anyone who appreciates how real musical comedy is written and executed. It will lift you. It will make you smile. It will wrap you in its lovingly captured splendor and its infectious Jerry Herman melodies, giving you that gift of joy that we all really need to be tangible in the world today. It only takes a moment to download this album and I guarantee you will be “all a smile.”