Hello Dolly is a predictable love story set in Yonkers and New York City at the juncture of the 19th and 20th centuries. Based on The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, the musical centers on Dolly, an eccentric blond middle-aged woman whose patterned handbags are so big that I wondered if a few of the cast members would jump out.
Dressed in fashionably bright gowns and feathered hats, Dolly is never lost in a crowd, and always has a group gathered around her. She meddles in every kind of social business, from teaching dance lessons to arranging marriages between young couples.
But now Dolly has a marriage plan of her own, to secure the wealthy feed-store owner, Horace, as her husband. Horace, however, has different ideas, and an independent woman such as Dolly won't make his household any cleaner, as he sings in "It Takes a Woman."
The story moves from the outskirts of Yonkers to the bustle of New York City, where feed-store clerks Cornelius and Barnaby have skipped out of work to see the sights and kiss girls. As events unfold, the men meet two hat-shop clerks, Mrs. Molloy and Minnie Fay, who also happen to be looking for love and adventure. Well, Dolly steps in, and soon, all the characters end up at one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. But there's not enough money to go around, and a few characters end up in jail. Will there be a happy ending? Of course! And everyone falls in love.
Though I didn't care for the story, I thought actors were cast very appropriately. Elizabeth T. Murff was Dolly, with her lengthy, glamorous stride and her take-control wittiness. In the song "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," she and the ensemble shined and greatly overshadowed the better-known "Hello Dolly." "Sunday Clothes" was a much-needed flurry of color, energetic voices, and movement that we don't see in any of the other drab musical interludes.
A few of the actors in minor roles also stepped it up in Dolly, including Kelly Hackett as Mrs. Molloy and Amy Board as the whiny Minnie Fay. Hackett's gentle, fun-seeking demeanor is perfectly innocent and when she finally meets Cornelius, we truly believe she's fallen in love. Board's eager tittering and short, quick steps as the hat-shop clerk were convincing, but not over-the-top.
Some of the choreography was well-staged, such as the comedic group antics of Cornelius, Barnaby, and the male ensemble in "It Takes a Woman." But flourishes such as the business with the waiters (balancing the trays of fruit, toe-touches in the air) were unnecessary to the story.
While some viewers will love Hello Dolly for its simple plotline, colorful costumes, and strong vocal talent, others - like me - will simply find it too similar to other musicals to be interesting or much fun.