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Back in 1890 Yonkers,
Dolly Levi always conquers
Any obstacle she sees.
Love and money have compelled her
To seek Horace Vandergelder,
Who’ll be hers, she guarantees.
Though he is a cross curmudgeon,
He just needs a little nudge on
Choosing her above the rest.
As a mover and a shaker
And New York’s most loved matchmaker,
She’s not easily suppressed.
After Horace tears to pieces
A beloved of his niece’s,
He intends to look for joy.
With the cash at his disposal,
He is planning a proposal
To New York’s Irene Malloy.
Since his feed store must stay open,
He puts his reluctant hope in
His two unfulfilled young clerks.
Once he’s gone, Cornelius Hackl
And pal Barnaby then tackle
Life at large and all its perks.
Dolly tells the two assistants
Of the heaven-sent existence
Of two women meant for them.
So they journey with elation
To Irene Malloy’s location,
Thinking they’ll each find a gem.
While Irene and gal pal Minnie
Like the pair, naïve and skinny,
Both employees quickly hide
When their boss arrives to proffer
Miss Malloy a marriage offer,
Till he learns of men inside.
Dolly then begins preparing
For a date night they’ll be sharing,
Though the poor clerks are afraid.
She ties off her latest scheming
As the city streets are teeming
For the 14th Street Parade.
By the time that night is falling,
All the characters are calling
On the restaurant that she chose.
Both the clerks cannot afford to
Spend a lot, though they’re implored to,
And their bluffing frankly shows.
Dolly’s welcomed with much fanfare;
Horace is her chosen man there,
Though she causes him much stress.
Dolly has arranged a chance for
His niece and her beau to dance for
Contest money to impress.
Mr. Hackl starts confessing
With Irene and Minnie’s blessing,
For they knew it all along.
They then try to be the winner
Of the dance to pay for dinner,
But then everything goes wrong.
Horace sees his niece cavorting
With the man he’d banned from courting,
And he quickly goes berserk.
What a messy picture this is!
Both his workers he dismisses
When he sees they’re not at work.
During this confused occasion,
There’s some stealthy pay evasion,
As two couples sneak away.
Hackl and Irene now know that
They’re in love, and both then show that
In a song to end the day.
Dolly then leaves Vandergelder,
Who regrets he ever smelled her,
But that changes very soon.
Back in Yonkers, he’s unmarried,
With no workers to be harried,
Just a lonely rich tycoon.
Dolly and the rest come calling,
And he sees no point in stalling,
So he asks her in his life.
She suggests that he be smarter
And take Hackl as a partner,
And she’s glad to be his wife.

Coming just a year after her rise to stardom in 1968’s Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly gave Barbra Streisand yet another enduring musical role that seems perfect for her. Many criticized the fact that she was only 27 years old at the time, perhaps too young for the role of a pushy widow seeking a husband. Yet she makes the role her own and fills it with such fast-talking chutzpah that I can’t see anyone else playing Dolly Levi. Carol Channing may have been the immortal Dolly on Broadway, but in my opinion (and my VC’s) Streisand blows her away, in both the strength and the mellifluence of her voice.

Walter Matthau sings for the first and only time in his career (that I’m aware of) as the bossy and crotchety storeowner Horace Vandergelder. Michael Crawford also does a fine job as Cornelius Hackl and is so lovably nerdy that it’s hard to believe he’s the original Tony-winning Phantom of the Opera. All the other roles are filled ideally, and Louis Armstrong’s cameo during the title song is classic as all get-out.

The music itself is wonderful stuff. From Mr. Vandergelder’s humorously selfish “It Takes a Woman” to the charming, street-walking “Elegance,” the songs clearly have just the right balance of humor, clever lyrics, and hummable tunes. “Hello, Dolly” is another great number, and the entire part in the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant is filled with energetic physical comedy and Michael Kidd’s impressive choreography. And of course, there are the two songs made even more timeless by their inclusion in the Pixar film WALL-E, those being “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment.” A few of the unnecessary songs like “Love Is Only Love” slow the film down a bit, but showstoppers like “Before the Parade Passes By” truly make the film (Streisand’s long end note is awe-inspiring). My personal favorite, though, is the opening song “Just Leave Everything to Me,” which was written specifically for the film and Barbra Streisand.

Hello, Dolly isn’t my favorite musical, even though I love most of the songs. Perhaps I don’t care for Dolly’s overly pushy manner. I mean, Mr. Vandergelder was an overbearing, self-centered boor, but by the end, I almost sympathized with his exasperation. His turnaround and marriage proposal are rather sudden, yet it shows Dolly knew just the right buttons to push to get the desired outcome. Despite Dolly’s busybody personality, Streisand sells it for the most part, and she and Crawford are perfectly cast. My VC loves the film even more than I, and though other musicals and Barbra Streisand films are higher on my list, this one stands out as a Broadway-style gem.

Best line: (Vandergelder, to his niece’s beloved Ambrose) “You are a seven-foot-tall nincompoop!”   (Ambrose) “That’s an insult!”   (Vandergelder) “All the facts about you are insults!”

VC’s best line: (Vandergelder, while being shaved) “Eighty percent of the people in the world are fools, and the rest of us are in danger of contamination.”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 8
Watchability: 8
TOTAL: 42 out of 60

Next: #189 – Rocky III

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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