"Hello, Dolly!" my old friend: Famous Artists Broadway and Sally Struthers bring back a classic

"Hello, Dolly!" starring Sally Struthers opened for a limited touring engagement at the Oncenter. Hello, Dolly!

Who Famous Artists Broadway

Where 760 S. State St. Syracuse, NY

When October 8th-10th

Tickets $37-$70

Review by Nick Reichert

There are old war horses in the world of musical theatre that get done to death. Whether on the amateur or professional stage, universally known guaranteed box-office hauls such as West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, and Brigadoon crowd theaters throughout the country every year. Hello, Dolly! is one such musical. However, Dolly’s fantastic arrival, presented by Famous Artists Broadway, at the Oncenter in Syracuse Tuesday night, though at times rough, was a colorful and joyous occasion.

Hello, Dolly!, written by Michael Stewart with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, was first produced on Broadway in 1964. The musical, set in New York City in 1897, depicts matchmaker extraordinaire and widower Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi orchestrating her own marriage to the “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder of Yonkers while conjoining various romantic pairs. Receiving ten Tony Awards, the show launched Carol Channing’s career and its infectious soundtrack became a number one seller.

Sally Struthers played the inimitable New York City matchmaker.

The trademark role of the sassy and mischievous matchmaker Dolly is portrayed with comedic fireworks by Sally Struthers. Most known for her role as Gloria Stivic in All in the Family, Struthers embellishes every moment with sprinkles of hilarity . Physical, sly and energetic, Struthers’s Dolly is a enjoyable delight. More the comedienne than the singer, Struthers strains as a solo vocalist during the opening number “Call on Dolly” and later on in the second act with “So Long Dearie.” But as she warms up during the first act, Struther’s ability to shift from vaudevillian antics to vulnerable asides to her late husband makes up for any vocal variances.

Though Dolly is the first lady of this stage, the other standout female performance was Lauren Blackman as the younger widower and hat saleswoman Irene Molloy. Blackman’s performance of “Ribbons Down My Back” enveloped and seduced the audience. With a voice and grace that hugs the senses, it is easy to see why Cornelius Hackl falls instantly in love.

And speaking of the head clerk from Yonkers, Hackl and his friend and co-employee Barnaby Tucker (played by Matt Wolfe and Garrett Hawe, respectively) are dynamic darlings. Wolfe and Hawe are alchemists of laughter, taking any spare empty moment and transforming them into musical moments of grandeur. The duo’s hijinks—while hiding from their cranky boss Horace Vandergelder in multiple locales in downtown New York City—light up the stage. And when  Wolfe sings his blissful rendition of “It Only Takes a Moment,” love-at-first-sight seems more than a Hallmark card platitude.

Besides the lead characters, the production’s ensemble is a circus of exuberance and talent. From large group dance numbers during “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Dancing,” “Before The Parade Passes By,” to the iconic eponymous song,  director Jeffrey B. Moss and choreographer Bob Richard deliver a show that makes every role of any size essential.

This production has its share of animated characters, and its lighting and costume design are just as bright. Charlie Morrison’s lighting design and Vincent Scassellati’s costume design are as colorful as a box of crayons and twice as sweet as a candy store. And the show’s scenic design consists of slim presentational frames, akin to silhouette portraitures, allows the costumes and lights to paint the predominately clear canvas of the stage.

Hello, Dolly! has aged a bit since premiering fifty years ago on Broadway. Though it seems hardly an essential revival, its hard not to get caught up in the flurry of fun. And when Struthers begins to glide down the staircase, framed by a platoon of singing waiters, it’s hard not to agree: “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”