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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