In theory, as much as I love to see the Maltz Jupiter Theatre step out of its classic-musical purview and dive into the harder-selling waters of straight theatre, there is nothing like a Maltz musical done just right. After an imperfect “Cabaret,” the theater has returned to nearly flawless form with “Hello, Dolly!,” a show familiar enough that most of the audience could probably recite it. Dolly, the title character, is a professional meddler attempting to find a mate for a womanizing shop owner; meanwhile, two of the shop owner’s proletarian worker bees skip off to New York City to find love. Stories and hearts collide, songs are sung and everyone goes home happy.
The utter predictability of the affair didn’t prevent a sold-out show from guffawing at the jokes, old-fashioned as they may be, thanks to the snap, wit and energy with which they’re delivered. Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, back at Maltz for the first time since 2010’s “Anything Goes,” has helmed another production worthy of the Broadway talent involved, from Gary Beach as the blustery chauvinist and Vicki Lewis (remember her from TV’s “Newsradio?”) hilarious and effervescent as Dolly. Then there’s Matt Loehr, a Carbonell contender next week for his role in “Crazy for You” last year, once again stealing every scene and hitting every vocal octave as Cornelius, the rogue clerk who falls for controversial shopkeeper Irene Molloy (an enchanting Daniella Dalli). Loehr remains as elastic as Silly Putty and aerial as a paper plane, defying gravity in a number of gangly twirls.
The story of “Hello, Dolly!” is a thin one – rudimentary matchmaking anchored by gentle social commentary about income inequality – and it’s virtually all taken care of by the end of the first act. The second act is almost pure choreographic and musical showmanship, with waiters at an upscale restaurant offering fleet-footed transitions between short scenes before overtaking the action entirely. The ensemble is a collective centerpiece in its own right, performing Dodge’s difficult choreography with breathless cohesion and earning, for good reason, the longest applause break until the finale.
Act Two is also home to one squirmingly unfunny bit, a mean-spirited caricature of an uncouth woman that plays as at litany of fat jokes. Even if this approach directly mirrors the original production, times have changed, and there’s no reason this character couldn’t have been permitted a modicum of dignity in a 2012 mounting of “Hello, Dolly!”
Nevertheless, Dodge also knows when to put the entire show on pause and let silence do the talking. The funniest moment in the production is when the entire cast stands on stairs and an elevated platform, impatiently overlooking an oblivious Dolly as she finishes eating. Lewis forks one giant dumpling after another into her mouth, the seconds ticking by like dead air on a radio broadcast. Watching someone nosh has never been this entertaining.
"Hello, Dolly!" is at Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Road, Jupiter, through Sunday. Tickets are $54 to $61. Call 561/575-2223 or visit jupitertheatre.og.