Earlier this month at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre was the classic, 10-time Tony Award-winning musical, “Hello, Dolly!”, which first premiered on Broadway over 50 years ago. This classic American musical follows the stong-willed widow, Dolly Levi (played by Carolee Carmello), and several other humorous and somewhat lonely characters, through their lives in 1885, New York City.
The quick exchange of witty banter between characters in “Hello, Dolly,” in conjunction with the interwoven storylines, makes it comparable to that of a Shakespearean comedy. Unlike Shakespeare, however, this musical demonstrates an inability to disguise the delivery of its story in humor and musical numbers, which makes it come off as fairly preachy. That being said, the pedantic nature of their delivery doesn’t degrade the relevance and the value these themes hold.
“Hello, Dolly’s” most prominent theme: the effects of living in wealth vs. poverty, is conveyed most clearly through the protagonist, Dolly Levi’s pursuit of marriage. A quest motivated not by love, but by money. Make no mistake though, Dolly Levi is no gold digger. She’s extremely skilled, ambitious, and generous. Such assets, however, were marked as valueless for women in this era. Dolly’s experience in living hand-to-mouth motivates her to seek out a wealthy husband to increase the standard of her life, and the life of anyone in need.
This lovable, multi-faceted character’s perspective on wealth is the obvious intended take away of this musical: “Money, pardon the expression, is like manure,” says Dolly, quoting her late husband Ephraim. “It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”
Although this ideal is spelled out far too often, Dolly’s insistence on sharing wealth rather than hoarding it proves as relevant today as it was in the late 1800s, when discourse over the existence of monopolies dominated politics.
As Dolly performs her final monologue, it becomes evident that the political issues uncoiling throughout the background of the musical seamlessly parallel social and economic politics in 2020. Namely, issues that are front and center in this year’s election: the lack of social equality and the prevalence of economic inequality. The resemblance between the world of “Hello, Dolly!” and the modern era serves as a reminder that fighting for justice is a timeless battle. A battle we are able to fight by virtue of past generations’ victories.
As Dolly Levi so honestly puts it: “The difference between a little money and no money at all is enormous and can shatter the world! And the difference between a little money and an enormous amount of money is very slight and that can shatter the world, too. It’s all in how you use it.”
Overall, “Hello, Dolly!” is jam-packed with iconic tunes, flashy costumes, and elaborate dance numbers that are perpetually crowd-pleasing.
But the show’s unfiltered honesty regarding the extent to which the concern of money (or lack thereof) rules our lives is what makes it truly remarkable.
VOX teens attended the opening night of the musical, thanks to the generosity of Broadway in Atlanta and Most Valuable Kids of Greater Atlanta.