By John A. Schwarz                                                                              

I come from a show business family. My mother was a dancer and my uncle a bandleader, singer, and movie actor. My grandfather was also an actor, who I loved to see perform on Broadway. And there were generations in show business before him, going back to Ireland, so it’s not surprising that I love the theater.

When in my teens, I started going to Broadway musicals. Until recently, my two favorites were the original production of “Evita”, which opened on Broadway in 1979 and starred Patti Lupone, and Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot”, which opened in 1960 with Julie Andrews as Queen Guinevere, Richard Burton as King Arthur, and Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot.

Now I have three all-time favorites.

We saw “Hello Dolly” when it opened in 1964. It starred Carol Channing and was a huge hit, setting a record for longevity and running for six years.

We thought it was great.

Revivals are rarely as exciting as the originals, but that’s not the case with the production currently on Broadway, which we saw this fall. Bette Midler is a tour de force and was born to play the role of Dolly.

Everything about “Hello Dolly” is superb, from the costumes to the sets to the singer and dancers and the pit orchestra. To top it off, Bette Midler not only has a wonderful voice, she’s also screamingly funny.

I’ve been to numerous shows where the audience gave the actors a standing ovation at the end, but what happened in the middle of the second act of “Hello Dolly” is unprecedented. Every single person in the theater leapt to their feet and shouted and applauded for probably five minutes. When we walked out of the theater, we couldn’t believe what we’d just experienced.

The bad news is that Bette Midler is leaving the show in mid-January. The good news is that she is being replaced by Bernadette Peters, the only singer/actress in the world who could replace Bette Midler because she too is a great comedienne.

The Shubert Theatre is quite large, seating 1,420 people. Even so, you will have to wait a while to see the show. Believe me, it is worth the wait.     

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