Color and piz­zazz

Tampa Bay Times - - Etc - BY AN­DREW MEACHAM Con­tact An­drew Meacham at [email protected]­pabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Fol­low @torch437.

Hello, Dolly! is a fun show that doesn’t pre­tend to be any­thing other than a feel-good mu­si­cal.

Asteam­ing lo­co­mo­tive pulls onto the stage of the David A. Straz Jr. Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, into a de­pot full of towns­peo­ple in pas­tel top­coats and long dresses with bus­tles. Through­out Hello, Dolly!, they’ll put on their Sun­day clothes about 12 dif­fer­ent times as cou­ples pair off and danc­ing wait­ers slide down ban­is­ters.

Jerry Zaks’ re­vival of the hit mu­si­cal, which cap­ti­vated Broad­way au­di­ences in 2017, had nearly sold out Tues­day’s open­ing night. It’s a fun show, an am­pli­fied ver­sion of New York nos­tal­gia that doesn’t pre­tend to be any­thing other than a feel­good mu­si­cal.

But it cer­tainly is that. Broad­way stal­wart Betty Buck­ley stars as Dolly Gal­lagher, a self-styled match­maker and fixer who ex­cels at fix­ing up oth­ers. The 1983 Tony win­ner (for her por­trayal of Griz­abella in the orig­i­nal Cats) re­turned to the stage Tues­day af­ter tak­ing sev­eral days off due to ill­ness. Whether she had it to give or didn’t, she reached deep and gave it any­way. She fol­lows a string of leg­ends since the orig­i­nal show opened in 1964, from Carol Chan­ning to Pearl Bai­ley to Bette Mi­dler, and brought a cer­tain del­i­cacy to the role.

This re­vival also brings its ar­chi­tects front and cen­ter. Cos­tumes by Santo Lo­quasto pop with color you might see in a bak­ery, laven­ders next to ba­nana yel­lows and peach, on around the spec­trum. War­ren Car­lyle’s chore­og­ra­phy can­not be de­nied, and these singing wait­ers can also catch air.

The cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect is charm, which helps there isn’t a lot more to this than a vis­ual spec­ta­cle. At the same time, Buck­ley’s per­for­mance drills down into what sub­stance the show does have, namely whether this ex­pert in other peo­ple’s re­la­tion­ships can get over the long-ago loss of her hus­band and find love. She also held the stage in two-minute solo se­quence, word­lessly de­vour­ing every last morsel of food in a gold-bro­caded pri­vate din­ing room, drink­ing out of the gravy boat and check­ing her hair in the sil­ver plate she had just pol­ished off, the ac­tions of some­one who rel­ishes all of life.

Her fa­mous voice — the “voice of Broad­way,” New York mag­a­zine once called it — was not there on Tues­day. But Buck­ley did what stars are sup­posed to. She showed up and showed up big time.

This pro­duc­tion got a ter­rific vo­cal boost from its two other prin­ci­pal play­ers, Nic Rouleau and Anal­isa Leam­ing as Cor­nelius Hackl and Irene Mol­loy. Rouleau’s tenor lead into the reprise of It Only Takes a Mo­ment marked one of the show’s high­lights.

Lewis Stadlen played a lov­able cur­mud­geon so well, it was hard to warm up to the “lov­able” part un­til the end. These el­e­ments plus out­stand­ing cos­tum­ing and chore­og­ra­phy add up to a pleas­ing pro­duc­tion, the mu­si­cal equiv­a­lent of an ice cream sun­dae. En­joy.

Photo by Juli­eta Cer­vantes

Broad­way stal­wart Betty Buck­ley stars as Dolly Gal­lagher, a self-styled match­maker and fixer who ex­cels at fix­ing up oth­ers.

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