Cover photo: John Bolton and the National tour company of Hello Dolly. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
I spoke with Hello Dolly’s John Bolton recently as he was enjoying some downtime at home in upstate New York. The cast had a rare week off from tour, then it’s off to Florida, Georgia and finally Philadelphia for a near two-week stay at the Academy of Music later this month.
Bolton has an impressive stage resume, making his Broadway debut alongside Jerry Lewis in Damn Yankees in 1994. He has been a part of many original Broadway casts including Spamalot, Contact, Titanic and, most recently, Anastasia where he played the role of Vlad for two years. Now, he’s portraying Horace Vandergelder, the well-known and well-off grumpy male lead opposite matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in the Tony Award-winning musical, Hello Dolly.
Audiences will see that Horace is more than a grump, though. Bolton understands that because every character he plays is coming out of the same vessel (himself), he works hard to envision each role as the director requests. Ultimately, Bolton does his best to embrace the “fun things that make a character what it is.”
“He’s a grouchy man-child,” Bolton says. “He’s a curmudgeon whose eyes and heart open eventually. It‘s fun to portray the grouchy guy.”
Bolton first discovered Hello Dolly as a kid. “[The cast recording] was one of the albums my parents had. We listened to lots of musicals, but Jerry Herman’s music and lyrics are so tuneful to younger ears. And the show tours with a full orchestra too! I never get tired of listening to the music.”
Two of the songs Bolton loves from the show are “Waiters Gallop”- he loves watching the dancers knock it out of the park each night and can’t wait for Philadelphia to see it- and “So Long Dearie”. “I have the best seat in the house as the incredible Carolee Carmello, as Dolly, sings [“So Long Dearie”] to me,” Bolton says.
The classic Broadway musical, starring Pearl Bailey, Carol Channing, and Bette Midler as Dolly over the years, has always stayed true to the original stage version. Audience members who have seen the show multiple times will agree that the set, choreography and Tony-winning costumes will all honor the same old Dolly everyone knows and loves. Jerry Herman, the Broadway icon who wrote lyrics and music for Hello Dolly, passed away recently and Bolton says Herman was thrilled with this recent production of Hello Dolly “so honors the original.”
Hello Dolly, which debuted on Broadway in 1964 and has been revived four times since then, is held in high regard in the theatre world as a great example of a perfect adaptation (the show is based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play The Merchant of Yonkers). “There’s no fat and corners aren’t cut either,” says Bolton.
Tickets for Hello Dolly at the Academy of Music are available here. The show runs from February 19th to March 1st. There will be an American Sign Language (ASL) and Audio Description (AD) Performance on Friday, February 28th at 8:00pm.
“Hello Dolly is big, bright, beautiful and it’s a wonderful introduction [to theatre] for many young audience members,” he says. Bolton simply hopes that audience members will experience joy, just sheer joy, as they watch the show.