Betty Buckley takes over for the role that Bette Midler brought back to Broadway as the "Hello, Dolly!" national tour gets ready for Miami.
miamiartzine.com talked to Analisa Leaming, who played Irene Molloy, in the Broadway production with Midler, and now is on the road with Buckley for the national tour.
miamiartzine.com: You were in the Broadway show with Ms. Midler, and now touring with Ms. Buckley. What do you find the differences to be in their approach to Dolly Levi?
Analisa Leaming: When audiences saw Bette as Dolly, they were watching Midler with all her Midler-isms that make her, well, her and that is exciting. She's a brilliant comedienne, but the national tour, because of Betty, is more of an ensemble piece. You see the characters. You're not watching Betty Buckley as Dolly, so you get a little more engrossed in the story.
maz: Had you worked with Ms. Buckley before?
AL: No, I hadn't. But we started rehearsals in August and we worked very closely together throughout the process. You know, it was amazing to watch her find her "Dolly." Betty is an incredible Dolly: she's funny and heartbreaking, and all of these colors in between. She is one of the fiercest actors and singers I have ever worked with.
maz: This is an "old" musical. Written in 1964 (from the Michael Stewart book with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman, based on the farce from 1938 "The Merchant of Yonkers."), and it takes place in 1890. How will audiences feel that it is relevant today?
AL: It really is about women and resiliency. There's one line in the show where one of the gentleman says, "I talked to a woman today equal to equal and, they are so different than men." And, every night, I think, "this is still a conversation we are having today." And, you know, it's the female characters in "Dolly" that really drive the show. They make everything happen, even though the men think it is their idea. It's clever and funny and it's heartwarming. And relevant.
maz: I've seen the show so many times and, I have to admit, that Irene Malloy always seemed like a supporting role that I didn't really rally around much, just because. Molly is a millineress with a hat shop and Dolly is playing matchmaker for her.
AL: One of the comments I usually get after the show is that "I never really cared for Irene, but you've brought her to life. She's so spunky and fiery." I had a friend say to me, "your Irene is so sassy." I was lucky enough to have a director, the incomparable Jerry Zaks, envisions a strong ingenue. She isn't just pining over love, she wants adventure and wants to make it happen for herself. In fact, I envision Irene Malloy going to suffragette meetings in her spare time.
maz: How do you feel that you personally can bring yourself into the character?
AL: I decided I wanted to come up with an intention for myself before I started the tour – this year on the road. The first word I came up with was adventure. And then, I hadn't even started rehearsal for the show and then I when I went back to the script and saw this line, it meant something different to me: "Oh, many loves enough I've had, it's adventure I want now." When I saw that, I realized it is like art mirroring life, or life mirroring art. So, that's what I find and try to imbue into that character every night.
"Hello Dolly!" is at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House from Tuesday, Nov. 20 to Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Tickets are available through the Arsht Center Box Office in person at 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33132, by calling 305.949.6722, or online at www.arshtcenter.org. Ticket prices start at $34