Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hello, Dolly! ...52 years later Still Going Strong!

“Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.”
Thornton Wilder, The Matchmaker
Happy January 16th, 2016!
For musical theatre lovers everywhere this date has great significance. Ethel Merman was born on this date AND Hello, Dolly! opened January 16th, 1964 and ran for 2844 performances while simultaneously playing on tour in the States and abroad. Thanks to the title song and a long list of STARS, the show had a healthy long run!
Thank you, Louis Armstrong.
During the Broadway run, nine different actresses played the role of "Mrs. Dolly Levi Gallagher", created by the legendary CAROL CHANNING. Her first replacement was GINGER ROGERS (1965) followed by MARTHA RAYE (1967), BETTY GRABLE
(1967), BIBI OSTERWALD (1967), PEARL BAILEY (1967), THELMA CARPENTER (1969), PHYLLIS DILLER (1969) and finally ETHEL MERMAN (1970). Several prominent actresses took the show on the road including MARY MARTIN, GINGER ROGERS, DOROTHY LAMOUR, EVE ARDEN and YVONNE DE CARLO.
In 1969, Twentith Century Fox had bought Hello Dolly!, who should star?
Theatre aficionados already know that the musical Hello, Dolly! was written with Ethel Merman in mind. The very first show Jerry Herman saw on Broadway was Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.

From that moment on, he had a dream of writing a musical for Ethel Merman.
Carole Cook was the 2nd actress to play Dolly in Hello, Dolly! (leading the Australian company)

When it was decided by producer David Merrick that he was going to do a musical version of The Matchmaker, word got to Jerry from Michael Stewart, the book writer, and Jerry went into overdrive to get the job. He wrote a few songs to present to Merrick. Merrick was impressed enough to hand him the show.
 Once he had it "wrapped up", he very excitedly sat down to write the show with Ethel Merman in mind. Ethel's original thought was that she didn't desire to be compared to Ruth Gordon! However, that now seemed a moot point. However, when he approached Merman, he received a major blow when she gave him a resounding "NO!". She even told him that she did not
Sandra Church and Ethel Merman   in Gypsy
want to hear one song from the score for fear that she would 'change' her mind.  She had just come off the road with Gypsy AFTER doing it on Broadway for two years. She said that as flattered as she was, she wanted to live a 'real life' that didn't include dressing rooms.
Gower then thought of Nanette Fabray who he had worked with in 1951when he choreographed Make a Wish. She had even won a Tony in 1949 for Love LifeMake a Wish was a musical with a book by Preston Sturges and Abe Burrows, who was not credited, and music and lyrics by Hugh Martin.
Sturges' primary motivation for writing the book was financial, as he was deeply in debt at the time.
When Gower approached Nanette to do Dolly, according to Marge Champion, Nanette was on vacation with her family in the Hamptons. (From 1964-1970, Marge Champion was
special assistant on Hello Dolly!).
She was also taking care of two young sons at the time that this project began.He wanted her to come in and audition for him. Because he was ALREADY familiar with her work and the fact that she was a Tony Award winner, she used a few choice phrases for him and that was the end of that! There have been rumors over the years that Ruth Gordon was even being considered. She had played Dolly in the original The Matchmaker, also produced by Merrick. Marge told me there is absolutely no truth to those rumors.
Also, at the time that this was happening, Carol Channing was appearing in The Millionairess. 
The Champions and Merrick went to see her out on Long Island. Merrick instantly was sold. Gower, however, wasn't. He had worked with Channing in Lend an Ear, the show that brought her to Broadway. He was always amazed at her talent. However, he felt that she had developed a "flapper's slouch" because of her role as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and he didn't feel that she had the right physicality to pull off Dolly Levi.
According to Carol and Marge, they were up till 5AM discussing her doing this role. Carol wanted and needed this show desperately. Although she continued to work since Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she had not had a mega hit of that magnitude.
This role would truly solidify her as a bonafide Broadway star. Carol begged for an audition and got it.
Marge coached Carol in how to stand and worked with on a lower East side accent and Carol went to audition for Merrick and Gower.
She auditioned in the basement of the Mark Hellinger Theatre (now a church!) and performed the "money is like manure"speech. They then sent her to Jerry Herman. The differences between Carol and Ethel Merman are vast.
With a few musical cuts and changes, Jerry started fitting the songs on Carol like a glove.

Carol got the job and the trajectory of her life AND mine changed.
The show would go on to win 10 Tony Awards, a record it held until The Producers came along. It truly did solidify Carol Channing as a Broadway legend. The stories are legendary about her never missing a performance.
She truly lived and breathed to be out there on that stage. She stayed with the show on Broadway till August 7th, 1965. Here is a timeline of the show on Broadway. The original Broadway company ran from January 16, 1964 - Dec 27, 1970. 
This was a Saturday night. Enter GINGER ROGERS: Opening Aug 9, 1965.  This was a MONDAY night.
Martha Raye followed Ginger Rogers in the original Broadway run of Hello, Dolly!, opening on February 27th, 1967; a Monday night. Martha Raye was the 3rd Broadway Dolly opening on February 27th, 1967 following Ginger Rogers. Her run lasted until June of that year. Raye lent her charm to become one of the funniest of the Broadway Dolly’s. She was also very available, traveling to Vietnam to perform for the troops, where she famously collapsed mid performance

A popular singer, comedienne, and actress, comfortable with both nightclubs and the theater, Martha Raye received many awards. In addition to her prominence in the Broadway scene and recognized for her varied performance talents, Martha Raye also performed for servicemen during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War; portraying herself as a memorable personality with a big heart.

In November of 1966, Betty Grable began touring for Hello, Dolly!, opening in Chatanooga, followed by performances in numerous cities before eventually arriving in Las Vegas. It played at the Rivera Hotel, opening on December 23. With two shows a night, it ran until autumn of 1966, and then it played in Chicago at the Shubert Theatre for two months. On June 12, 1967, Betty replaced Martha Raye on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! and stayed with the cast until November 5th, 1967. Betty Grable was, to say the least, an exceptional lady. She played opposite Max Showalter as Horace. Read Dennis Edenfield's account of Betty Grable as Dolly.

Betty Grable was Queen of 1940's and 50's musicals and top ten box office star for 10 consecutive years.
There is a story, perhaps, apocryphal, that someone once asked Lucille Ball why she never did the show. She said, “Who wants to sing the title song of a show that starts with “Hello, Harry?”
 In 1967, after Hello, Dolly! had played over 1,500 performances on Broadway, Merrick hit on the idea of extending its run even more by swapping in an all-black cast led by Pearl Bailey, with Cab Calloway co-starring as Horace Vandergelder.
The production of Hello, Dolly! starring Pearl Bailey opened on November 12, 1967.
 In his New York Times review, Clive Barnes wrote, “For Miss Bailey this was a Broadway triumph for the history books. She had no trouble at all in stopping the show-her problem was getting it started again.
On her entrance, the audience wouldn't even let her begin.

After about a minute's applause, she cleared her throat, grinned amiably and...murmured: 'I've got a few more words to say in this show'...Bailey took the whole musical in her hands and swung it around her neck as easily as if it were a feather boa.”
Mr. Barnes also noted the "polished" and "stylish" Mr. Calloway and that seated "center front" was Miss Channing, "a blaze of platinum hair."
The Broadway production ran for two years, before Bailey’s health problems forced it to close. She toured with the show after her recovery, and again in the mid-1970s.
She won a special Tony Award for this production.
She would return to Broadway with a production opposite Billy Daniels in November 6, 1975-December 28, 1975.
Here is Jane Lambert's account of that production.
On December 26, 1969, Phyllis Diller opened in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway; one week after Barbra Streisand’s film version premiered up the street. Diller had a three-month run on Broadway. Danny Lockin was appearing on stage with Phyllis – as Barnaby
Tucker – AND on film with Barbra at the same time!
After Dolly!, Diller would not return to the stage until 1988, when she played the vivacious Mother Superior in San Francisco's Nunsense.
After Diller's stint, Ethel Merman took over the role until the end of the show's run in December 1970. 
Here is Georgia Engel's account of working with the last two original Broadway Dollys.
THEN, Merman said Hello, Harry...

The Ethel Merman Dolly dynasty reigned from March 28, 1970 – December 27, 1970.   On November 30th, The  New York  Times announced that she was closing on December 26–then, the
Sunday matinee was added!
Merman’s last night on a stage anywhere was at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida. Merman’s last scheduled song became Before The Parade Passes By. She had two encores of There’s No Business Like Show Business and What I Did For Love. She thanked the audience from the “bottom of my heart.”

Here are a few things that were sent to me today: HI Richard.  Hope all is well.  I saw the original Broadway production of Hello Dolly with my parents and my two sisters.  I have a very clear memory of wearing a white sailor dress with a large collar and a pleated skirt. Those were the days when everyone got dressed up to see a Broadway show.  I vividly remember watching the show and getting so excited because I grew up in Yonkers and we had just come form there to see the show.
Robin Westle

 Hello Dolly...Being with Mary Martin in those airplane hangers as she embraced hundreds and hundreds of soldiers will never be forgotten.
Mary Martin with Bea Lillie
Viet Nam had to be the most profound memory I started my time with Hello Dolly after auditioning for Gower Champion in Los Angeles in 1965. I lived in Culver City, Calif. and had just finished the eleventh grade. It was to be for the National Company with Carol Channing. I was initially "typed out", as I arrived looking like a ballerina.  I changed my clothes and let my hair down and stayed behind in the wings of the theatre and watched the rest of the audition. When it was over I came out of the wings and approached Gower Champion as only a green and audacious young girl just barely seventeen could and told him I could perform the choreography as well as any of the others.
He looked at me and then laughed...."all right....let's see what you can do". He proceeded to give me a private audition. Several weeks later I was hired for the National Company of Hello Dolly with Mary Martin.  Another young dancer from Hawthorne,Calif., Janyce Nyman, joined me on the adventure.
We were the youngest dancers in the show.  My parents had to give permission for me to,leave high school.  After one week of rehearsal I went into the already touring show.  Before I knew it we were on our way to Asia and played in Tokyo for one month before going to Vietnam. Janyce and I were the youngest players to perform in the battlegrounds of Vietnam.
Playing there with Ms.Martin and the cast was profoundly moving as she gave her love and our love to hundreds and hundreds of soldiers.  Later she went onto London and our chorus joined Betty Grable ( and Max Showalter) and later Ginger Rogers and Dorothy Lamour.  I learned so much from all the top professionals I worked with as a novice of seventeen to nineteen and half years of age.
I never worked with Carol Channing but saw her in Dolly many years later in a Summer Stock production with my second father and dear friend the late Max Showalter.
Leslie Snow

The Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. FL was the lucky venue for the sold-out world premiere of Hello Dolly, starring the incomparable Lee Roy Reams!!
 And we were there!!
    Lee Roy Reams became Dolly Levi!
Cleverly constructed costumes helped, but really, it was one legend living in another...
  Every musical number - directed by Lee Roy and choreographed by Randy Slovacek - was magical...using Gower Champion's original blueprint.
  The tenderness of Lee Roy's portrayal made the audience so grateful to have experienced it.
After 30 seconds of Dolly's appearance on stage, Lee Roy gave a seamless performance that uncovered her soul. Congratulatory reviews and front pages all around South Florida kept the Wick to capacity for the entire run!
     The beloved character of Dolly's affections, Horace Vandergelder, was
superbly embodied by Lewis Stadlin, the seasoned Broadway leading man.
      The Wick provided an elegant Opening Night Reception for all, and thanks to my dear friend, Richard Skipper and husband, Danny Sherman., my husband Bill and I met andspent time with Lee Roy Reams, the critic Peter Filichia, and Richard's actor friend, Chris Smith.
A tremendous time was had by all.  Thank You, Richard.

-Anarene Barr!

Order the film version TODAY!. 

Thank you, Jerry Herman!

Please check out and LIKE us on Facebook.
I thank all of you that I have interviewed and am looking forward to the interviews to come!
If you were in a production of Dolly or have something to share, I want to hear from you!
Please contact me at

Thank to ALL that are mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give! 

Make 2016 the year of YES!

With grateful XOXOXs ,


Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!


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

Here's wishing all those in the running a successful day tomorrow when the 2016 Oscar nominations are announced!

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

February 13th, Peter Filichia in conversation with Richard Skipper at American Popular Song Society 

with Musical Director Michael Lavine
Anita Gillette and an all star cast
join  Peter Filichia and Richard Skipper
to celebrate the 1963/64 Broadway Season
Talk/Performance/Book Signing

Call Richard Skipper Celebrates at 845-365-0720 if you need more details.
Many surprises are in store. Please contact me if any questions.
Please LIKE Richard Skipper Celebrates on Facebook
Admission is Free for Members/$15.00 for Non-Members .

Doors open at 12:30 for those who want to buy sheet music Also members can take tables and sell their stuff. 2:30 -1:30 "Flea Market" 1:30 seating - showtime: 1:45 - 3:30.


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