"Hello, Dolly!" is returning to the stage starring Imelda Staunton in the title role

The star of "The Crown" and the antagonist of "Harry Potter" headlines a production at the London Palladium
"The Crown" Final Episode + Q&A with Stephen Daldry and Imelda Staunton At BFI Southbank
"The Crown" Final Episode + Q&A with Stephen Daldry and Imelda Staunton At BFI Southbank / Dave Benett/GettyImages

In the moving final scene of the Royal Family drama The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II walks for a duration of 70 seconds into the welcoming embrace of her eternal rest as bagpipes play in her honor. It is a profoundly moving and reverent depiction of the end of Elizabeth Windsor's reign, and Imelda Staunton plays the role with exquisite gravitas. This is the same actress known for chilling children and adults alike as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. Her musical theater credits include turns as frenetic stage mother Rose in Gypsy and the darkly comical Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

With such a range from the somber to sadistic, it would be easy to forget that she is acclaimed for lighter-hearted roles as well. She won a Laurence Olivier Award for her portrayal of Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and was nominated for the same as the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods..

Staunton is channeling the spirit of her Sondheim rolle as the title role in Hello, Dolly! The Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart play was originally a 1964 adaptation of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker. The show is full of pitfalls and near-misses as widow and matchmaker Dolly Levi attempts to help young love along, but it is also the chronicle of a woman who has waited a long time to live life again. The production that opens at the London Palladium July 18 is being directed by Dominic Cooke and is a limited ten-week run.

The Irrepressible Imelda

Deadline's "Breaking Baz" attended a rehearsal of the show that is currently in previews and reported on how "The Crown's Imelda Staunton Finds Humor and Poignancy" in the role she is tackling. When asked about the need for an understudy for his leading lady, producer Michael Harrison scoffed at the idea."

"Imelda Staunton doesn’t have a stand-by or a cover, she does the lot! She’s the definition of a leading artist...This is a very, very good company...But I’ve got a great leader and it all comes from the top."

Michael Harrison

Says Baz Bamigboye, "That's why the lady is a star." Cooke adds that "it's not just her talent...It's her experience."

Adaptation Notes

Cooke's vision for the play that has enchanted audiences for 60 years has some interesting things taken into consideration. According to Cooke there are some generational changes in preference:

"It’s a strange show...because it’s got so many genres in it; musical, comedy farce, drama, but doing sort of farcical comedy is really tough. Either it works or it doesn’t. It has to be bang on...He adores the comedy in the piece, but laments that ‘comedy itself [on stage] has slightly fallen out of favor’ noting that the new generation of ‘young directors don’t want to do it...I dunno why. It’s taste, isn’t it?’"

Baz Bamigboye, quoting Dominic Cooke

The cast and creative team have good authorities to help with the interpretation, though. Staunton spoke with one of the original playwrights, Herman, before his death in 2019, while Cooke consulted with the literary executor of Thornton Wilder's estate.

The show opens July 18 and it sounds like a theatrical run well worth seeing "Before the Parade Passes By."

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