Hello, Dolly!, Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London

3.00

In the bloated 1969 film version of the musical Hello, Dolly!, even the flagrantly opulent sets didn't stand a chance against a screen-hogging Barbra Streisand in the title role. Samantha Spiro, fresh from her turn in Funny Girl has scary shoes to fill as the widowed busybody Dolly Gallagher Levi. She wears them lightly. Small, neat and budgerigar-like, she nips around, sticking her beak into everyone's affairs.

The story, based on Thornton Wilder's 1954 play The Matchmaker, isn't complicated: it's about what happens when an irresistible force (Dolly) meets an immovable object (Horace Vandergelder, the miserly, friendless half-millionaire she's set her sights on marrying) in Yonkers, circa 1890.

Their flirtation and courtship – if you can call it that – isn't just antagonistic, it's downright hostile. The chauvinistic Horace (Allan Corduner, on good, blustery form) would rather snuggle up to a cash register than a flesh-and-blood woman. He wants a wife who's fragile, "powdered and pink", yet happy to be a skivvy and joyfully fix the plumbing. The motor-mouthed Dolly, as fragile as a tow-truck, barges her way into his affections, unearthing a better, more pleasure-loving man in the process.

Between explosions of temper, Corduner does his best to make Horace's change of heart convincing. He's often amusing, especially when fending off the advances of Ernestina, a cigar-chomping, bosomy fright in pink ruffles. Spiro, meanwhile, works hard to make bossiness appealing, and her rendition of "Hello, Dolly!" is like a warm embrace and wins us over.

Jerry Herman's nostalgia-fest of a musical is big, brash and silly, forever teetering on the brink of saccharine. Timothy Sheader's staging offers a pure jolt of light relief, carefully building up audience goodwill with its pretty, sometimes striking stage pictures.

Stephen Mear ringmasters the dancers well. There's a delightfully choreographed train sequence, and it's splendid when the whole cast parades down the aisles in their candy-coloured bodices and bowlers during the rousing "Put On Your Sunday Clothes".

The show emerges as a celebration of the possibility of love, even for people who have ringfenced their hearts against it. The evening belongs as much to Daniel Crossley's Cornelius Hackl, Horace's hapless employee, as it does to the heroine. Hackl runs off to New York, where he ends up falling for a beautiful milliner (Josefina Gabrielle, captivating). Crossley makes for a wonderful romantic clown in the role, at times almost lunatically sweet.

To 12 September (0844 826 4242)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable