Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Preview of my book on Hello, Dolly!

Wow, wow, wow fellas...

Happy Saturday!

I wanted to give you a spring gift. An update on my book progress. 
Peter Filicia says in his great book on Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and The Biggest Flop of The Season: 1959-2009, "It's a rare musical theatre theatre enthusiast who doesn't know David Merrick gave Jerry (Milk and Honey) Herman a mere weekend to write songs for his planned musical version of Thorton Wilder's The Matchmaker."
He goes on to say that, "Herman went home and absorbed the story of Dolly Gallagher Levi, the Yonkers widow who entices the wealthy Horace Vandergelder to New York City, ostensibly so he can meet much younger widow Irene Molloy. (Of course, Dolly plans to get Vandergelder for herself.) "
One of the forgotten Dollys, Thelma Carpenter

CALL ON DOLLY: A celebration of Broadway’s Greatest Musical since we last corresponded.

I hope this finds you well! I just wanted to give you the latest updates on my book, I hope this finds you well! I just wanted to give you the latest updates on my book, CALL ON DOLLY: A Celebration of Broadway’s Greatest Musical since we last corresponded.
Check out my blog on Wayne Clark’s Memories of Hello, Dolly! (He was in the first national tour with Carol Channing: 

Keep checking (It is a work in progress. Updated daily. What is not there that YOU would like to see there?)

We Have a Fan Page On Facebook. Hit the LIKE button and get book updates:

Also, Check out my blog on Ron Young (Original company).

In addition to and Wayne Clark and Ron Young, I have interviewed Mary Ellen Ashley, Johnny Beecher (Barnaby Tucker in Mary Martin’s international tour), Carol Channing, Carole Cook,  Stephan deGhelder,  Marcia Milgrom Dodge (current production of Dolly at Jupiter Dinner Theatre in Florida), Jack Dyville (Yvonne deCarlo company), Charles Karel, Sue Ane Langdon, Sondra Lee (Broadway’s original Minnie Fay), Bruce Morgan (Yvonne deCarlo’s son), Roberta Olden (she was Ginger Rogers’ personal assistant). 

I also have interviewed cast and crew of various productions. 
This book will be a celebration!
I am including some of these interviews as part of my blog to build up the excitement in anticipation of this book. 
Is there anyone YOU think I should talk to?

With a MAJOR thank you to  Al Koenig Jr. whose help is immeasurable!
In 1963  it was decided that there was going to be a musical version of The Matchmaker by Thorton Wilder.  
What was not known was that the show would create history.  Jerry Herman said to THEATER WEEK in October 1989:  "The Detroit tryout wasn't a happy time. Merrick over-panicked. It was a little lumpy--but it rang!" 

In October 1995 Herman told the same publication:  "I was not really treated very well by Mr. Merrick."  The producer's thumbprint was ever-apparent.  When Pearl Bailey gave the show a new lease on life beginning November 12, 1967, Merrick took an ad in the TIMES calling this "The Event of the Century."  When Bailey got a call to do an Ed Sullivan show, Merrick sent along the entire company.  Mary Martin was well represented 
in the documentary "HELLO, DOLLY 'Round-the-World" on February 7, 1966 and Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey toasted each other in the tv special,  CAROL CHANNING and PEARL BAILEY on BROADWAY, on March 16, 1969.  After his passing, Merrick's influence continued to be relived in a February 25, 2002 VARIETY feature:  "Of course, the most popular model for replacement casting is the way David Merrick put Ginger Rogers, Pearl Bailey and Ethel Merman in HELLO, DOLLY! after Carol Channing went on the road."

The original working title was Dolly, That Damned Exasperating Woman. How's that for a title!? But after the successful Louis Armstrong recording of the number one hit song Hello, Dolly!, which came out before the show made it to Broadway, the name of the show was mercifully changed to the title that we've all come to know and love.

Before the show opened on January 16, 1964 at the St. James Theatre in New York, it had already had quite an interesting journey. The Matchmaker was an  updated treatment of The Merchant of Yonkers starring Jane Cowl which was based on a Viennese trifle called Einen Jux will er sich machen (1842), (He Will Go on a Spree or He'll Have Himself a Good Time), which came from in 1835 English comedy called A Day Well Spent.
 So you have A DAY WELL SPENT.  A milestone in that journey was reached on September 9, 1970 after the 2718th show when Dolly Levi surpassed Eliza Doolittle as Broadway's Fairest Lady:  a cake was rolled out, the number of performances outlined in candles.  The icing read "HELLO, DOLLY! Longest Running Musical in Broadway History."  It was Merrick's day-- and had he had his thumbprint on it-- by inviting the press.
Merman, still in her curtain wedding dress, helped blow out the candles, but she did not forget the show.  Her last concert night on stage was in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1983.  The eleven o'clock number was "Before the Parade Passes By," prefaced with her recalling that she had agreed to extend her three month contract as David Merrick wanted to break the MY FAIR LADY record:  "What could I say?  He's a nice man." 
 The comment solicited unintentional laughter.
My story is going to focus on those that were integral to the various productions of Hello, Dolly! both on and off stage and especially the women who played Dolly on Broadway, in film and in productions around the country and the world.
On May 15, 1977 the "last" Broadway Dolly and the International Dolly descended two staircases in full costume at the Broadway Theatre.  
  The occasion was a fund raiser for the Museum of the City of New York-- it became the roof raiser of our time when Merman said "Well, Hello, Mary-- still crowing?"  And Mary Martin answered:  "I'm still crowing strong. "Er er erooo."
Ruth Gordon played the irrepressible Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker on Broadway. Shirley Booth would do the film version. That was in 1958. Six years later, thanks to the chemistry of Michael Stewart, Gower Champion, Jerry Herman, a host of other talents, and especially Carol Channing, there was a new life brought to Dolly Levi and she thrives to this day. Miss Channing related a quotation by Sir John Gielgud to tv host Charles Osgood:  "You Americans forget your classic characters--I do Hamlet every fifteen years or so.
 You should continue to do HELLO, DOLLY!  Our contribution to American art form is the American musical comedy-- musical theatre."  And Walter Kerr offered that Carol Channing is "the only creature extant who can live up to a Hirschfeld."
I wonder if we will ever see another star-driven vehicle on the level of this show. Most people don’t know who is playing Mary Poppins on Broadway today. 
 It's a different Broadway from the Broadway in 1964 when Dolly! opened. Producers nowadays very rarely put a star's name above the title. They are hoping that the show is story-driven.
And of course, there are no David Merricks around anymore. Mr. Merrick was able to keep this musical alive on Broadway and in major tours and productions around the country as the world was quickly changing all around. 
 This show came to Broadway just as the country was still reeling from the JFK assassination; people needed to be cheered up. 
Two forms of entertainment contributed to this: a musical called Hello, Dolly! and an arrival or invasion: The Beatles landed in America. The show is set as the 19th becomes the 20th century and with Vietnam, the assassinations et al., it took people back to an easier and more innocent time and place.
Both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy would be assassinated during the run of the show on Broadway. The Vietnam War was raging. And popular culture was changing especially in the music industry and what people were seeking as far as entertainment. Hello, Dolly! had one purpose and one purpose only… to entertain. From 1964 until 1970, night after night on Broadway, a lady with a feathered headdress and a red evening gown, the likes of which had never been seen anywhere before, would descend the stairs at the Harmonia Gardens and audiences would be on their feet cheering. 

For seven years, those women were Channing, Rogers, Raye, Grable, Bailey, Diller, Merman, and from time to time Bibi Osterwald who stood by for most of these women.(And Thema Carpenter that stood by for Parl Bailey and went on 110 times earning her name here).
Ruth Gordon in The Matchmaker
While these women were appearing on Broadway, around the country Dorothy Lamour, Eve Arden, Michele Lee, Alice Faye, Edie Adams and Yvonne De Carlo were playing on tour. 
Carole Cook was leading the Australian company and Mary Martin performed in the International company: she toured cross-country, ending in Portland; went to Japan, closing on September 9, 1965 in Tokyo, asking "Louie, would you please tell these dear people how welcome they have made us feel in Tokyo." then went on to Vietnam for eleven shows - and then to London. Hello, Dolly! was made into a major motion picture starring Barbra Streisand, opening on Broadway and 49th St at the Rivoli Theatre DURING THE PHYLLIS DILLER run of the show.

Over the next three decades, from the time that she first descended the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens, Carol Channing would go on to do over 5000 performances of this iconic role, closing on January 28th, 1996 at the Lunt -Fontanne Theatre.
 On March 5, 1978 the first Carol Channing Broadway revival opened at the Lunt- Fontanne.  A Reviewers' Reel preserves the line "a name I know as well as my own."  A World Tour began on July 26, 1983:  "Dear, Dear People of San Francisco and Environs....  It's a tremendous honor that tonight on our Opening night here that we have the great lady of the American theatre, Mary Martin." 

The final return to Broadway, again at the Lunt, opened on October 19, 1995, closing on January 28, 1996 after a two week extension.  Over the stage door were these words:  "Through This Door Walks a Broadway Legend Eight Times a Week."

At her final New York curtain, Miss Channing said "But you're just standing there. You're not going anywhere!" It is hoped that these memories go everywhere-- and that future generations can now learn of a classic American character. 
This book is dedicated to those who played Dolly on stage, those who knew her on stage-- and to the audiences that cheered the show from the front rows to the balconies. May Dolly never go away.
The craftsman behind HELLO, DOLLY! was David Merrick. 
 His red office was upstairs and next-door-to the St. James. He was "hands on," his thumbprint on every cast change. VARIETY had cited his contribution in his obituary on May 1, 2000: "When business lagged for his long-running hit HELLO, DOLLY!, he returned it to sold-out status with an all African-American cast that headlined Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway."
Ginger Rogers
Without the appearance of Pearl Bailey the show would have closed after four years. But at the Tony Awards on April 21, 1968 Jack Benny began to note a new era: "You know, a replacement in a Broadway show is not eligible to be nominated for a Tony Award, but if anyone ever deserved a special award, it's Miss Pearl Bailey." The same evening Merrick was cited: "This year he crowned his achievements with the concept and presentation of the all new HELLO, DOLLY! 1968."
 The show had first been offered to Merman who had turned it down: "Maybe I was rude; I don't know." It was ironically fitting that she would close the original Broadway run: "I didn't open Dolly, but I closed her." Impresario David Merrick had announced a Saturday night December 26 Closing in the November 30, 1970 NEW YORK TIMES.
Martha Raye
 But ticket sales were strong and a Sunday matinee was added. So Merman closed the original run with a curtain speech on December 27: "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going out for some Neapolitan ice cream!" It was 5:21 p.m., so documented by the DAILY NEWS. To paraphrase Dolly and Mrs. Rose: It had been a long time, a long, long time since the original VARIETY ad on January 8, 1964:  "Season's Greetings-- Carol Channing Starring in David Merrick's Production HELLO, DOLLY!"

Now, I need an agent! Any suggestions? 

To ALL the Dollys past, present, and future, thank you so much for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world.
Your devoted fan,

Reserve today for Peggy Herman. Click on the above banner and be part of our star studded audience!

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Tomorrow's blog will be..Terry DeMari's Memories of Hello, Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Richard Skipper,   
This Blog is dedicated to Al Koenig! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!

1 comment:

  1. Richard,
    I am so excited for you and for the book. It will be a joyous celebration when it is published. Hey, maybe they'll make a musical out of it ;-)