Half a century in, and Hello, Dolly! is showing its age.
It was an old-fashioned show when it premiered in the first half of the '60s, with a thin plot and even thinner characters. It found success on the back of a mostly memorable Jerry Herman score and the sheer force of will of Carol Channing.
A game cast works to breathe life into Hello, Dolly! at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. The production is handsome, but the whole thing falls apart by the middle of the second act and limps to the finish line.
Dolly Levi is a hustler, in a more innocent late 19th-century kind of way. The widow is ready to do anything she can to make a living, including serving as a matchmaker. She has connected widow Irene Molloy to widower Horace Vandergelder, but sees her own chance to find security with the businessman.
Vandergelder is a bit of a tyrant, and keeps the two clerks at his Yonkers-based feed store working every night. Cornelius and Barnaby decide that while their boss is out courting, they should have an adventure and head into New York City for the night.
Of course the plots cross, as Cornelius falls for Irene at her hat shop. The two poor clerks pretend to be rich to woo the ladies, with everyone gathering at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant (and its long staircase) for a night of chaotic fun.
Well, that's the plan, at least. The problem is the Chanhassen production runs out of steam before we get to this point, dragged down by too much frothy, meaningless action. That's typified by an overlong sequence at the restaurant where the waiters dance, dance, dance, and then dance some more (do they actually ever serve the food they're carrying around?) for what seems like hours.
Michelle Barber gives us a too-stiff Dolly, with neither her humor nor her heart brought to convincing life. The story turns on her decision to return to the glory of her free-spirited, younger days, but there isn't much difference between the two parts of her character. The hustling, match-making Dolly of the first act is pretty much the same as the one who descends the staircase in Act Two.
There are good supporting roles, especially the younger pair of Cat Brindisi and Tyler Michaels as Irene and Cornelius. They are both real charmers and make the most out of rather thinly sketched characters.
All of this is wrapped up in solid directing by Michael Brindisi (the father of Cat and wife of Michelle; yes, it's a family affair), who manages the keep the energy peppy throughout. Still, there's too much old-fashioned singing and dancing and not enough depth to keep Hello, Dolly! afloat from beginning to end.
IF YOU GO:
Hello, Dolly! Through February 21 Chanhassen Dinner Theatres 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen $47-$69 show only; $62-$84 with dinner For tickets and more information, call 952.934.1525 or visit online.