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Theater Review: “Hello, Dolly!” at Ford’s Theatre

Eric Schaeffer’s revival shines but lacks the full punch of star power.

Nancy Opel as Dolly with the cast of the Ford’s Theatre and Signature Theatre co-production of Hello, Dolly! Photograph by Carol Rosegg.

Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway in 1964, Carol Channing entered stage right, doffed her enormous
turn-of-the-century hat, flashed her enormous grin, and—before she’d even handed out
a single one of her ridiculous, ubiquitous business cards—stole the show.

Channing’s Dolly Gallagher Levi was a matchless matchmaker. We loved her on sight.
It might take two hours for the miserly millionaire Horace Vandergelder to succumb
to her wiles, but the audience enjoyed the chase almost as much as Channing did.

Signature Theatre artistic director
Eric Schaeffer has brought Dolly back to Ford’s Theatre in this joint production, and hired Broadway
Nancy Opel (a Tony Award nominee for her role in
Urinetown) to play the title role. Schaeffer has a sure hand with musical revivals, and this
is no exception. The period costumes by
Wade Laboissonniere are perfect, the set by
Adam Koch delightful, the pace sprightly. Choreographer
Karma Camp provides some of the evening’s best moments with her athletic and appealing dance
numbers. We would gladly have ordered another number from her dancing waiters.

Opel does her darndest to sparkle, wheedle, and warble her way into our hearts—but
she doesn’t quite make it. Washington stalwart
Edward Gero makes a credible Vandergelder, but there is no chemistry between the two.
Tracy Lynn Olivera’s beautiful voice, showcased in “Ribbons Down My Back,” can’t make up for the miscasting
that matches her with Vandergelder’s clerk Cornelius Hackl (Gregory Maheu).

Hello, Dolly! is a family-friendly musical revival with terrific costumes and choreography. But
it’s a star vehicle that needs a dazzling Dolly, and this star merely twinkles.

Hello, Dolly!,
a co-production with Signature Theatre, is at Ford’s Theatre through May 18. Running
time is about two hours, with one intermission. Tickets ($25 to $77) are available
via Ford’s Theatre’s website.