As I've written a bit here lately, a new production of Hello, Dolly! recently opened on Broadway with Bette Midler. To help promote the upcoming release of the Original Cast Album, the selections of that very album has been posted for a limited time online.
As readers of these pages know, I've done a lengthy analysis of four different versions of the show -- the original production with Carol Channing, the "new" cast recording with Pearl Bailey, the London cast version with Mary Martin, and songs from the production that closed the original run with Ethel Merman. So, far beyond this being Bette Midler's return to Broadway, I was intrigued to hear how Jerry Herman's classic score is handled.
My sense is that this revival's recording is perfectly nice, and Bette Midler does a solid job. But she’s oddly mellow, surprisingly without the edge you’d think she’d bring to the role. Maybe that’s more a function of making a recording rather than performing live. The only number she has sparks with, I think, is “So Long, Dearie,” which is intended as a snarky, sarcastic number as Dolly chides Horace Vandergelder, ostensibly telling him off which trying to attract his interest. Midler also does a pretty good job on "Before the Parade Passes By." Everything else strikes as fine and pleasant, though not stand-out.
Interesting, I thought the supporting characters actually do the best job, notably Gavin Creel who plays Cornelius Hackl, and most especially Kate Baldwin who I’m a big fan of, as Irene Malloy. David Hyde Pierce does a personable job as Horace Vandergelder, though I think he's a little miscast. (The character is an aggressive, blustering almost-bully, and Pierce's persona tends to be the opposite.) He does get a bonus here, though -- a song that had been cut from the original production, "Penny in My Pocket," which is fun to hear, though only just fair.
The arrangements are mellow, as well. Affectionate in part, and personable, though never as brassy as the original (which I think brings out the best of the score). Still, not all arrangements have to be that way, brash and lively -- they're not for the British cast album with Mary Martin, and are more warm and playful, and work very well, fitting the character of its star. There are only two arrangements of this new album I'm not really much a fan of is the overture -- the first is the selection of songs is different than the original, and not as effective to me, but also quite muted. And the second is the "Waiter's Gallop" which is an exciting and funny dance number than builds and builds in anticipation of Dolly returning to the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, which is the "Hello, Dolly!" number, and the arrangement here seems to have changed the music, but that may be because it has little drive and humor to it. It should have enthusiasm, and it's just a fine dance number.
I was trying to figure out what song to post here, and then I realized -- well, that's a foolish thing to have to decide. Of course I know what song to post. And you know, too.
Here it is.
I'll provide a link for the full score, but figure that not everyone will want to go and listen to the whole thing. So, instead, I post a couple other numbers to give more of a sense of the highlights and a quicker way to get into such things.
Here, for example, is that number I mention that I think Bette Midler does quite well, and comes across as a lot of fun, "So Long, Dearlie."
Here, too, are the two supporting performers who I was taken by -- Gavin Creel and my fave Kate Baldwin singing, "It Only Takes a Moment." (It's mainly Cornellius's song, but Irene comes in towards the end. More notable for Baldwin is the song, "Ribbons Down My Back," which I've never been a big fan of, finding it a bit bland, but in the right hands -- such as Baldwin's here -- it's gorgeous.)
And finally, here's a taste of David Hyde Piece. I almost decided to post the new song, but since it's only fair, I figured I'd go with Horace's traditional and fun song, "It Takes a Woman."
Anyway, that's a taste of the show. If you want to hear the entire score, just click here and either listen to the whole thing, or select individual songs. Keep in mind that this link will only be posted for a limited time. For all I know, these embedded songs here will, as well, but at least you have them at your fingertips right now. But if you plan to wait to go to this site, don't wait too long. Because Hello will no doubt soon be saying goodbye...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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