“One of your old favorite songs from way back when”
Seeing Hello, Dolly! at the Open Air Theatre still ranks as one of my all-time favourite theatrical experiences, tied up as it is with memories of my Aunty Mary, so it was only really practicality that held me back from booking to see the show on Broadway once the casting of Bette Midler was announced (heck, even Donna Murphy as her alternate was a seriously tempting proposition). But resist I did, in the anticipation of the inevitable Cast Recording that would offer a peek into Dolly’s new world.
It’s always a tricky thing, to embrace a new version of something so beloved and for me, every note, riff and chuckle of Barbra Streisand’s interpretation for the film soundtrack is ingrained on my memory. And so to hear someone else do it, no matter how well, always requires something of a readjustment. So it took me a couple of listens to really get into the groove of this album but in the new arrangements by Larry Hochman (orchestrations), and Don Pippin (vocal arrangements), the score feels familiar but fresh.
Midler is too good a performer not to do complete justice to Jerry Herman’s score and her brassy and bold take on the character is ideally suited, not a million miles away from the public perception of the woman herself. She glides effortlessly through the glorious title track with all its swaggers and she injects real pathos into quieter emotional moments like ‘Before The Parade Passes By’ too, her performance is always fun to listen to – it does therefore feel a real shame that she apparently won’t be performing at the Tony Award ceremony for us all to see.
Hello, Dolly! is far from a one-woman show though, and there’s a variety of strong supporting performances, not least the delectable Gavin Creel as the adorable Cornelius Hackl who shimmers gorgeously in ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes’. Kate Baldwin more than justifies her Tony nomination in the inspired take on ‘Ribbons Down My Back’ and David Hyde Pierce makes a strong impression as Horace Vandergelder, even if the deleted song reintroduced here for his benefit doesn’t quite prove an essential addition.
So this New Broadway Cast Recording of Hello, Dolly! manages the not-inconsiderable feat of establishing its own identity on something so familiar, by finding the way to channel all the special chemistry that Midler brings to the show and putting a huge smile on the face.