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Review: Hello, Dolly! at Curve, Leicester

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Review by Lizz Brain

IT may be a frothy, flimsy favourite from years gone by, but Hello, Dolly! has stood the test of time because it's essentially a feelgood show about rediscovering life and love.

Curve's Christmas musical is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser which works because it doesn't pretend to be more than it is; a tremendously likeable, fun and warm tale of a meddling widowed matchmaker looking for love for herself and those around her.

Dolly (Janie Dee) wants to marry cantankerous half-millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Dale Rapley), yet first has to craftily persuade him that the charms of another widow, milliner Irene Molloy (Laura Pitt-Pulford) are not for him.

In the meantime, Horace's two employees run off to New York looking for adventure and love, gently nudged towards Mrs Molloy's shop by Dolly.

Of course everything ends up happily ever after, and in the hands of musical creative team director Paul Kerryson and choreographer David Needham, it could hardly do anything but.

It's light-hearted, occasionally farcical (although the hilarious Motherhood March has sadly been cut), and breezes along with a permanent twinkle.

Janie Dee's Dolly has humanity and humour as a woman learning to live and love again after being widowed too young, not wanting to spend her middle years alone and looking to Vandergelder for security and companionship. Dolly's motormouth dialogue isn't yet quite flowing with the speed and sass one associates with the role, but it will almost certainly come as the run progresses.

Michael Xavier sings up a storm as Horace's chief clerk Cornelius Hackl, balancing his comedy well between immature and goofy, and Ms Pitt-Pulford's voice soars gloriously with her solo spots.

David Needham's dancers are key to the show-stealing moments – the frenetic waiters' gallop, the exquisite ballet in Dancing and the impressive act one finale - always slick, busy, imaginative and immensely watchable. He creates magic with movement, keeping dancers so active you'd swear there were twice as many.

There's also a pleasingly fat sound from musical director Ben Atkinson's eight-piece band, with a grateful nod to the four local brass bands who add oomph to the parade scene (Enderby Band on press night).

Sara Perks' designs are a little more hit and miss, costumes are period but some lack the wow factor (and Dolly's "enormous bag" is referenced but doesn't appear) and the central curved staircase, although providing a variety of functions including the milliner's shop and train station entrance, often just looks out of place. But these are admittedly nitpicks.

Ultimately it's a lovely show, it makes you smile, it makes you tap your feet and I defy you not to sing the title song all the way home. What else does a Christmas show need?

 

• Read more by theatre critic Lizz Brain at www.lizzbrain.com or follow @theatreblogger on Twitter.

Review: Hello, Dolly! at Curve, Leicester


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