Since it opened last April with Bette Midler in the title role, the new production of Hello, Dolly! has been one of the hottest tickets on Broadway — both for its marquee star and its zippy refresh of a classic musical with grand scenery and costumes, an eternally sparkling score, and an ensemble of performers who are musical theater stars in their own right.
Hello, Dolly! continues to draw ticket-line-down-the-block crowds with its new leading lady, Bernadette Peters, and a mix of original and new cast members, including Kate Baldwin, Molly Griggs, Santino Fontana and Charlie Stemp. The foursome, who bring loads of charm and heart to their leading roles in the show, stopped by the Billboard on Broadway podcast recently to chat about the musical’s enduring appeal.
“Shows like this are brilliant — you can’t help but laugh and smile,” Stemp says of Hello, Dolly!
As the actors all note, the story itself accounts for a great deal of why, though it premiered on Broadway in 1964, Hello, Dolly! still feels fresh. “It’s kind of radical,” Griggs says. “Women run the world in this show,” Fontana adds. “The writing is so good. The story of moving on — dealing with a past that may have wounded you and being able to embrace life and move forward … that’s when you’re like, ‘Oh, Thornton Wilder and Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman hit on something that’s universal and that will never get dated.’ That’s why it’s so popular; because it’s so true.”
The group goes on to talk about the unique experience of performing in a show that’s led by a marquee name like Peters’.
“It’s not easy leading a company,” Stemp says. “You need to not only turn up and do your job — which is a hard job — but also she takes the time to talk to other people, and to do that is what makes her a star.” “Bette brings with her a showbiz-y history, especially with New York City, and her audiences who would come just to see her do the role,” Baldwin explains. “Feeling the audience revel in her Bette Midler-ness is very different from the audiences now reveling in the Bernadette-ness. Bernadette is such a presence in musical theater — she’s the person I listened to growing up and wanted to be like … it’s just a different energy.”
In their chat with host Rebecca Milzoff, the four discuss everything from how the cast has adapted with the addition of new members to the unique challenges of dancing in very-warm woolen suits.