Betty Buckley joins Hello, Dolly! in Tampa

The show runs at the Straz until Dec. 9.

Hello Dolly

Through Dec. 9: Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 2 p.m.; and Sun., 7:30 p.m.



click to enlarge Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! - Straz Center/Tampa
Straz Center/Tampa
Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!

What possibly is left to be said about Hello, Dolly!, that perennial paean to buoyant and sunny good times?

It's big, it's bold, it's brassy. It's Broadway. And this time it’s Betty Buckley in the title role. 

This musical with Jerry Herman lyrics and music, Michael Stewart book and Gower Champion choreography has been around since 1964, has had four Broadway revivals and been an international success for the last 50 years.

Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s time to see it again.

The U.S. national tour of this Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival plays the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall, Dec. 4-9, as part of Bank of America Broadway at The Straz.

Consider the grand dames of the past who have played the strong-willed matchmaker out to find her own find and catch her own catch, all based on the Thornton Wilder play, The Matchmaker. The original title role was done by the incomparable Carol Channing (after Ethel Merman and Mary Martin turned it down), but ultimately performed by such Broadway titans as Merman, Martin, Shirley Booth, Betty Grable, Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Pearl Bailey, Barbra Streisand, Ann Miller, Phyllis Diller, Bernadette Peters, and Bette Miller. Many others in touring and regional productions have made the character their own. 

click to enlarge Ensemble joins Lewis J. Stadlen as Horace Vandergelder and Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi in the finale to Hello, Dolly! - Straz Center/Tampa
Straz Center/Tampa
Ensemble joins Lewis J. Stadlen as Horace Vandergelder and Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi in the finale to Hello, Dolly!

Now comes Tony Award-winning Betty Buckley, the original Grizabella in Cats, the has-been glamour cat that sang “Memory," and Buckley has put her very distinctive stamp on this over-the-top role. She's funny, she's charming, she's conniving, she's real, she's brash, she's vulnerable.

Having Buckley back on stage as Dolly Gallagher Levi — well, as the lyric reminds us, “it’s nice to have you back where you belong.”

Buckley is joined by Lewis J. Stadlen as Horace Vandergelder, the unmarried half-a-millionaire who never knows what hits him. This production is directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, with sumptuous sherbet-hued costume and scenic design by Santo Loquasto.

From the overture, to the ensemble “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” to Dolly’s moving “Before the Parade Passes By,” to the frantic racing and dancing of the “Waiter’s Gallop,” to the sentimentality of “It Only Takes a Moment,” to the very last note of the reprise and finale, well, a wide, wide grin never left my face.

We desperately need such giddy entertainment, now more than ever.

Crazy-happy musicals can be a sure antidote to a crazy-crappy life.

click to enlarge "The Waiters' Gallop" in Hello, Dolly! - Straz Center/Tampa
Straz Center/Tampa
"The Waiters' Gallop" in Hello, Dolly!

Ben Wiley taught literature and film at St. Petersburg College. At USF/Tampa, he was statewide Director of the Florida Consortium/University of Cambridge (UK) International Summer Schools. Contact him here.

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Ben Wiley

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="59a99bae38ab46e8230492c5" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Ben Wiley is a retired professor of FILM and LITERATURE at St. Petersburg College. He also was on staff in the Study Abroad Office at University of South Florida as statewide...
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