Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Hello, Dolly! Turns 45

Hello My Retro Lovers!
Today I present a tribute to a Broadway legend.
Hello Dolly! turned 45 this past January and I wanted to walk down that infamous red carpeted stairway of memories with you and salute this grand old show.
Growing up while the show was still running in New York and in various companies on tour, I could not help but be aware of it. I mean Mary was South Pacific, Barbara was Funny Girl, Ethel was Gypsy and Carol was Dolly. Carol Channing will always be a favorite of mine and her portrayal of Dolly Levi is etched in our American culture forever. Many other fine women played Dolly Levi over the years in the original run from 1964-1970 but Carol ruled Broadway for almost two years in the role and then toured America for another two and sealed her place in our hearts for all time. David Merrick produced Hello Dolly! in 1964 and knew how market shows so they became a hit. He had so many hits on Broadway during the 60’s that it seemed like he was the Only Producer! Hello Dolly! was not only a hit but a…Mega Hit!
Awards came flowing down like bread from heaven and in time, it would break the record held by My Fair Lady as the longest running musical on Broadway.
Sure, newer shows have come along and broke that record by now…BUT…in the 1960’s, Dolly was The Show To See and it had the magic formula that America seemed to crave. Dolly opened in January 1964. It came just shortly after America was hit by the Kennedy assassination in November 1963. America was still grieving and Dolly was light, uplifting and just plain loaded with “feel goodness” through and through. I know many theatre goers today may think it was far too quaint when compared with the likes of Rent or Spamalot but Dolly filled a comforting need in the 1960’s and spoke to millions of theatre goers across the nation and…the world.
Each actress who came to the role of Dolly in the original run brought her own kind of touch to it. Carol was the hallmark and each of the new Dollys had to find a way to make Dolly her own. Ginger Rogers brought that touch of Hollywood glamour, Martha Raye used comedy with pathos, Betty Grable came with a sense of 1940’s nostalgia, Pearl Bailey redefined the role(Over 700 performances!!) with her famous warmth and energizing voice, Phyllis Diller…yes, I do mean Phyllis Diller… brought her comedic wit along to bounce down those red carpeted steps in her own special way. And Ethel Merman, the one whom the part was originally intended for, came along and blew the house down with two more additional songs added just for her. Ethel Merman stayed far longer than she planned and closed the record breaking show in December 1970.
Now I must add that Barbra won the movie role for the lavish 1969 film version and was the youngest of all the Dollys. Barbra was a dynamo and her portrayal was unique, lively and very much…Barbra! The rule was, if you love Barbra….then you will love the movie. Poor Carol, no movie…but she did get the Tony award in 1964…not Barbra.
Oh, well!
Put On Your Sunday Clothes...and enjoy these articles, ads and various photos for a special look back at Hello Dolly!