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Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler – review at Shubert Theatre, New York – ‘sumptuous’

Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway. Photo: Julieta Cervantes Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
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Nearly 50 years since Bette Midler performed in the original Broadway run of Fiddler on the Roof, she is back on Broadway and it’s so nice to have her back where she belongs.

The roar that goes up from the audience when she first appears threatens to stop the show before it even starts. But she more than earns it. At 71, she still has expert comic timing. “Some people paint, some sew. I meddle!” declares Dolly Levi, a matchmaker in late 1800s New York, seeking to find a wife for wealthy but miserly shop owner Horace Vandergelder in upstate Yonkers, as his two downtrodden assistants Cornelius and Barnaby set out on an adventure of their own.

Jerry Herman’s 1964 score contains more earworms than virtually any show in history. Part of the joy of the show is its familiarity; but Jerry Zaks’ traditional, if sumptuous, production makes sure it feels constantly fresh and funny.

Santo Loquasto’s ravishing design mixes gorgeous painted backcloths with 3D sets that include a full-size steam train and carriage. The performances mix and match realism with caricature.

Midler’s Dolly is naturally larger-than-life, and if she sometimes overdoes the comedy (there’s a silent food eating scene that goes on forever), there’s a knowing charm that is completely disarming.

Though it would be easy for everyone else to be cast into her shadow, David Hyde Pierce plays Horace appealingly straight, while Gavin Creel and Taylor Trensch (as Horace’s assistants) and Kate Baldwin and Beanie Feldstein (as the milliners they become embroiled with) enchant with their youthful vivacity

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This sumptuous Broadway revival proves a great vehicle for returning star Bette Midler