Hello, Dolly! (musical)
1964 Broadway poster
by Thornton Wilder
1965 West End
1975 All-black Broadwayrevival
1996 Mexico City
2009 Regent’s Park Open Air Theatrerevival
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony for Composer and Lyricist
Tony Award for Best Book
Hello, Dolly! is a 1964 musical with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart, based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farceThe Merchant of Yonkers, which Wilder revised and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955.
Hello, Dolly! was first produced on Broadway by David Merrick in 1964, winning a record 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, a record held for 37 years. The show album Hello, Dolly! An Original Cast Recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. The album reached number one on the Billboard album chart on June 6, 1964 and was replaced the next week by Louis Armstrong’s album Hello, Dolly!
The show has become one of the most enduring musical theatre hits, enjoying three Broadway revivals and international success. It was also made into the 1969 film Hello Dolly! that was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won three.
The plot of Hello, Dolly! originated in an 1835 English play, A Day Well Spent by John Oxenford, which Johann Nestroy adapted into the farce Einen Jux will er sich machen (He Will Go on a Spree or He’ll Have Himself a Good Time). Thornton Wilder adapted Nestroy’s play into his 1938 farcical play The Merchant of Yonkers, a flop which he revised and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955, expanding the role of Dolly, played by Ruth Gordon.The Matchmaker became a hit and was much revived and made into a 1958 film of the same name starring Shirley Booth. The story of a meddlesome widow who strives to bring romance to several couples and herself in a big city restaurant also features prominently in the 1891 hit musical A Trip to Chinatown.
The role of Dolly Levi in the musical was originally written for Ethel Merman, but Merman turned it down, as did Mary Martin (although each eventually played it). Merrick then auditioned Nancy Walker. Eventually, he hired Carol Channing, who then created in Dolly her signature role. Director Gower Champion was not the producer’s first choice, as Hal Prince and others (among them Jerome Robbins and Joe Layton) all turned down the job of directing the musical.
Hello, Dolly! had rocky out-of-town tryouts in Detroit and Washington, D.C. After receiving the reviews, the creators made major changes to the script and score, including the addition of the song “Before the Parade Passes By”. The show was originally entitled Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman and Call on Dolly but Merrick changed the title immediately upon hearing Louis Armstrong’s version of “Hello, Dolly”. The show became one of the most iconic Broadway shows of its era, the latter half of the 1960s, running for 2,844 performances, and was for a time the longest-running musical in Broadway history. During that decade, ten “blockbuster” musicals played over 1,000 performances and three played over 2,000, helping to redefine “success” for the Broadway musical genre.
As the 19th becomes the 20th century, all of New York City is excited because widowed but brassy Dolly Gallagher Levi is in town (“Call On Dolly”). Dolly makes a living through what she calls “meddling” – matchmaking and numerous sidelines, including dance instruction and mandolin lessons (“I Put My Hand In”). She is currently seeking a wife for grumpy Horace Vandergelder, the well-known half-a-millionaire, but it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself. Ambrose Kemper, a young artist, wants to marry Horace’s weepy niece Ermengarde, but Horace opposes this because Ambrose’s vocation does not guarantee a steady living. Ambrose enlists Dolly’s help, and they travel to Yonkers, New York to visit Horace, who is a prominent citizen there and owns Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed.
Horace explains to his two clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, that he is going to get married because “It Takes a Woman” to cheerfully do all the household chores. He plans to travel with Dolly to New York City to march in the Fourteenth Street Association Parade and propose to the widow Irene Molloy, who owns a hat shop there. Dolly arrives in Yonkers and “accidentally” mentions that Irene’s first husband might not have died of natural causes, and also mentions that she knows an heiress, Ernestina Money, who may be interested in Horace. Horace leaves for New York and leaves Cornelius and Barnaby to run the store.
Cornelius decides that he and Barnaby need to get out of Yonkers. They’ll go to New York, have a good meal, spend all their money, see the stuffed whale in Barnum’s museum, almost get arrested, and each kiss a girl! They blow up some tomato cans to create a terrible stench and a good alibi to close the store. Dolly mentions that she knows two ladies in New York they should call on: Irene Molloy and her shop assistant, Minnie Fay. She tells Ermengarde and Ambrose that she’ll enter them in the polka competition at the upscale Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in New York City so Ambrose can demonstrate his ability to be a breadwinner to Horace. Cornelius, Barnaby, Ambrose, Ermengarde and Dolly take the train to New York (“Put On Your Sunday Clothes”).
Irene and Minnie open their hat shop for the afternoon. Irene wants a husband, but does not love Horace Vandergelder. She declares that she will wear an elaborate hat to impress a gentleman (“Ribbons Down My Back”). Cornelius and Barnaby arrive at the shop and pretend to be rich. Horace and Dolly arrive at the shop, and Cornelius and Barnaby hide from him. Irene inadvertently mentions that she knows Cornelius Hackl, and Dolly tells her and Horace that even though Cornelius is Horace’s clerk by day, he’s a New York playboy by night; he’s one of the Hackls. Minnie screams when she finds Cornelius hiding in the armoire. Horace is about to open the armoire himself, but Dolly, Irene and Minnie distract him with patriotic sentiments related to subjects like Betsy Ross and The Battle of the Alamo shown in the famous lyrics “Alamo remember the Alamo!” (“Motherhood March”). Cornelius sneezes, and Horace storms out, realizing there are men hiding in the shop, but not knowing they are his clerks.
Dolly arranges for Cornelius and Barnaby, who are still pretending to be rich, to take the ladies out to dinner to the Harmonia Gardens restaurant to make up for their humiliation. She teaches Cornelius and Barnaby how to dance since they always have dancing at such establishments (“Dancing”). Soon, Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby, and Minnie are happily dancing. They go to watch the great 14th Street Association Parade together. Alone, Dolly decides to put her dear departed husband Ephram behind her and to move on with life “Before the Parade Passes By”. She asks Ephram’s permission to marry Horace, requesting a sign from him. Dolly catches up with the annoyed Vandergelder, who has missed the whole parade, and she convinces him to give her matchmaking one more chance. She tells him that Ernestina Money would be perfect for him and asks him to meet her at the swanky Harmonia Gardens that evening.
Cornelius is determined to get a kiss before the night is over, but Barnaby isn’t so sure. As the clerks have no money for a carriage, they tell the girls that walking to the restaurant shows that they’ve got “Elegance”. At the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, Rudolph, the head waiter, prepares his service crew for Dolly Levi’s return: their usual lightning service, he tells them, must be “twice as lightning” (“The Waiters’ Gallop”). Horace arrives with his date, but she proves neither as rich nor as elegant as Dolly had implied; furthermore she is soon bored by Horace and leaves, as Dolly had planned she would.
Cornelius, Barnaby, and their dates arrive, unaware that Horace is also dining at the restaurant. Irene and Minnie, inspired by the restaurant’s opulence, order the menu’s most expensive items. Cornelius and Barnaby grow increasingly anxious as they discover they have little more than a dollar left. Dolly makes her triumphant return to the Harmonia Gardens and is greeted in style by the staff (“Hello, Dolly!”) She sits in the now-empty seat at Horace’s table and proceeds to eat a large, expensive dinner, telling the exasperated Horace that no matter what he says, she will not marry him. Barnaby and Horace hail waiters at the same time, and in the ensuing confusion each drops his wallet and inadvertently picks up the other’s. Barnaby is delighted that he can now pay the restaurant bill, while Horace finds only a little spare change. Barnaby and Cornelius realize that the wallet must belong to Horace. Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby and Minnie try to sneak out during “The Polka Contest”, but Horace recognizes them and spots Ermengarde and Ambrose as well. The ensuing free-for-all culminates in a trip to night court.
Cornelius and Barnaby confess that they have no money and have never been to New York before. Cornelius declares that even if he has to dig ditches the rest of his life, he’ll never forget the day because he had met Irene. Cornelius, Barnaby, and Ambrose then each profess their love for their companion (“It Only Takes A Moment”). Dolly convinces the judge that their only crime was being in love. The judge finds everyone innocent and cleared of all charges, but Horace is declared guilty and forced to pay damages. Dolly mentions marriage again, and Horace declares that he wouldn’t marry her if she were the last woman in the world. Dolly angrily bids him “So Long, Dearie”, telling him that while he’s bored and lonely, she’ll be living the high life.
The next morning, back at the hay and feed store, Cornelius and Irene, Barnaby and Minnie, and Ambrose and Ermengarde each set out on new life’s paths. A chastened Horace Vandergelder finally admits that he needs Dolly in his life, but Dolly is unsure about the marriage until her late husband sends her a sign. Vandergelder spontaneously repeats a saying of Ephram’s: “Money is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread about, encouraging young things to grow.” Horace tells Dolly life would be dull without her, and she promises in return that she’ll “never go away again” (“Hello, Dolly” (reprise)).
- Dolly Levi: A widow in her middle years who has decided to begin her life again. She is a matchmaker, meddler, opportunist, and a life-loving woman.
- Horace Vandergelder: The proprietor of a Hay & Feed store and a client of Dolly Levi. A well-known half-a-millionaire, he is a widower, gruff, authoritative, and set in his ways.
- Cornelius Hackl: Vandergelder’s chief clerk who yearns for one exciting day in NYC. Energetic, enthusiastic, and adventurous young man who has a sweet innocence about him.
- Barnaby Tucker: An assistant to Cornelius at Vandergelder’s Hay & Feed store. He is sweet, naïve, energetic, and a follower.
- Irene Molloy: A widow and a beautiful, smart, fun-loving milliner with a hat shop in New York. Dolly has introduced her to Horace Vandergelder but she yearns for romance.
- Minnie Fay: A young girl who works in Irene’s hat shop. Irene’s assistant, she is a naïve, strait-laced, fresh, and a follower.
- Ambrose Kemper: A young and explosive struggling artist seeking to marry Ermengarde.
- Ermengarde: The young niece of Horace Vandergelder. She cries often and wants her independence and wants to marry Ambrose.
- Ernestina Money: An eccentric-looking girl in need of Dolly’s matchmaker services.
- Rudolf Reisenweber: Maître d’ of the Harmonia Gardens restaurant.
- Waiters: A group of waiters at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant.
- Mrs. Rose: A friend of Dolly’s from years before. A street vendor who sells vegetables.
- Judge: A white-whiskered night court judge. Easily moved to tears by romance.
*Song cut before Broadway Opening, reinstated when Ethel Merman joined to play Dolly.
**Song replaced “Come and Be My Butterfly” during Broadway Run.
Horace Vangergelder’s solo “Penny in my Pocket”, although it received rave responses out of town, was cut prior to the Broadway opening for reasons of time.
The song “Elegance”, though credited to Herman, was written by Bob Merrill for the 1957 show New Girl in Town but deleted from the original production.
Original Broadway Production
The musical, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and produced by David Merrick, opened on January 16, 1964, at the St. James Theatre and closed on December 27, 1970, after 2,844 performances. Carol Channing starred as Dolly, with a supporting cast that included David Burns as Horace, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, Eileen Brennan as Irene, Jerry Dodge as Barnaby, Sondra Lee as Minnie Fay, Alice Playten as Ermengarde, and Igors Gavon as Ambrose. Although facing competition from Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that year, winning awards in ten categories  (out of eleven nominations) that tied the musical with the previous record keeper South Pacific, a record that remained unbroken for 37 years until The Producers won twelve Tonys in 2001.
After Channing left the show, Merrick employed a string of prominent actresses to play Dolly, including Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey (in an all-black version with Cab Calloway, Mabel King, Clifton Davis, Ernestine Jackson and a young Morgan Freeman), Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman after having turned down the lead at the show’s inception. Two songs cut prior to the opening — typical Mermanesque belt style songs “World, Take Me Back” and “Love, Look in My Window” — were restored for her run. Thelma Carpenter played Dolly at all matinees during the Pearl Bailey production and subbed more than a hundred times, at one point playing all performances for seven straight weeks. Bibi Osterwald was the standby for Dolly in the original Broadway production, subbing for all the stars, including Bailey, despite the fact that Osterwald was a blue-eyed blonde. Bailey received a Special Tony Award in 1968.
The show received rave reviews, with “praise for Carol Channing and particularly Gower Champion.” The original production became the longest-running musical (and third longest-running show) in Broadway history up to that time, surpassing My Fair Lady and then being surpassed in turn by Fiddler on the Roof. The Broadway production of Hello Dolly grossed $27 million.Hello, Dolly! and Fiddler remained the longest-running Broadway record holders for nearly ten years until Grease surpassed them.
Tour and Regional Dollys
Dorothy Lamour, Eve Arden, Ann Sothern, Michele Lee, Edie Adams, and Yvonne De Carlo played the role on tour. Molly Picon appeared as Dolly in a 1971 production by the North Shore Music Theatre of Beverly, Massachusetts. Lainie Kazan starred in a production at the Claridge Atlantic City. Both Tovah Feldshuh and Betsy Palmer played Dolly in productions by the Paper Mill Playhouse. Marilyn Maye also starred in several regional productions and recorded a full album of the score.
Original London Production
Hello, Dolly! premiered in the West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on December 2, 1965 and ran for 794 performances. Champion directed and choreographed, and the cast starred Mary Martin as Dolly (after she, as well as Merman, had turned down the role for the original run of the show), Loring Smith as Horace Vandergelder (Smith had created the Horace role in the original production of The Matchmaker), Johnny Beecher as Barnaby, Garrett Lewis as Cornelius, Mark Alden as Ambrose Kemper, and Marilynn Lovell as Irene Molloy. Dora Bryan replaced Martin during the run.
The show has been revived three times on Broadway:
- November 6, 1975 – December 28, 1975, Minskoff Theatre – Starring Pearl Bailey and Billy Daniels in an all-black production (42 performances)
- March 5, 1978 – July 9, 1978, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre – Starring Carol Channing and Eddie Bracken (147 performances)
- October 19, 1995 – January 28, 1996, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre – Starring Carol Channing and Jay Garner (116 performances)
- April 20, 2017, Shubert Theatre Starring Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce
In the West End the show has also been revived three times:
- 1979 – Starring Carol Channing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Shaftesbury Theatre
- January 3, 1984 – April 27, 1984 – Starring female impersonator Danny La Rue as Dolly at the Prince of Wales Theatre
- July 30, 2009 – September 12, 2009 – Starring Samantha Spiro (Dolly) and Allan Corduner (Horace) at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park. Spiro won the Olivier Award for her performance.
In 1989 Nonnie Griffin performed the role of Dolly for a ten-month run of the show at Toronto’s Limelight Dinner Theatre.
Bette Midler and Carol Channing
2017 Broadway Revival
On January 19, 2016, it was announced that Bette Midler will star in a revival on Broadway in the title role. The production will be produced by Scott Rudin, directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. Previews are scheduled to begin March 15, 2017, with an opening date of April 20, 2017, at the Shubert Theatre.David Hyde Pierce will play Horace Vandergelder.
Other principal casting for this revival includes: Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy, Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl, Jennifer Simard as Ernestina Money, Taylor Trensch as Barnaby Tucker, Will Burton as Ambrose Kemper, Melanie Moore as Ermengarde, and Beanie Feldstein as Minnie Fay.Donna Murphy will play the role of Dolly at the Tuesday evening performances.
- The original German production of Hello, Dolly!, with the title character’s surname “Wassiljewa” (Vasilyeva) rather than “Levi,” starred Tatjana Iwanow (Tatyana Ivanov).
- The first production in Spanish was held in 1967 at the Teatro Nacional in Buenos Aires, starring Argentinian actress and tango singer Libertad Lamarque, who also did it in Mexico.
- In 1996, Mexican diva Silvia Pinal starred in the Spanish language version of the musical, ¿Qué tal Dolly? (“What’s Up, Dolly?”), opposite Ignacio Lopez Tarso in Mexico City.
- In 1985, Cuban diva Rosita Fornes played Dolly Levis in a Cuban production of Hello, Dolly by the Teatro Karl Marx in Havana, Cuba. She also played the role in Camaguey city and in a television production under director Manolo Rifat.
- The Australian production in 1965–66 starred Carole Cook, produced by JC Williamson Theatres LTD. She was the second woman to play the role. Jack Goode as Horace and Bill Millican as Cornelius also starred. The show played at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney and Melbourne, and His Majesty’s Theatre, Aukland in 1966.
- Mary Martin starred in a US tour, starting in April 1965 and playing in 11 cities. The production also toured in Japan, Korea and Vietnam for a special USO performance for U.S. troops.
- A second US tour began in September 1965, headed by Channing, and ran for two years and nine months. Eve Arden and Dorothy Lamour were replacements.
- In 2008, Anita Dobson toured in the UK.
- Sally Struthers appeared as Dolly in the 50th anniversary tour of the musical, starting in October 2013
Opening night reviews of the original production were generally positive, and Carol Channing’s performance as Dolly Levi was greatly acclaimed; however, some reviewers criticized the score and the libretto, implying that Channing’s performance was responsible for the efficacy of the show. In his review of the opening night performance, The New York Times theatre critic Howard Taubman wrote “Hello, Dolly! … has qualities of freshness and imagination that are rare in the run of our machine-made musicals. It transmutes the broadly stylized mood of a mettlesome farce into the gusto and colors of the musical stage. … Mr. Herman’s songs are brisk and pointed and always tuneful … a shrewdly mischievous performance by Carol Channing. … Making the necessary reservations for the unnecessary vulgar and frenzied touches, one is glad to welcome Hello, Dolly! for its warmth, color and high spirits.” John Champman of the New York Daily News lauded Carol Channing’s performance, declaring her “the most outgoing woman on the musical stage today – big and warm, all eyes and smiles, in love with everybody in the theatre and possessing a unique voice ranging somewhat upward from a basso profundo.” He also wrote, “I wouldn’t say that Jerry Herman’s score is memorable.”New York Post critic Richard Watts, Jr., wrote, “The fact that [Hello, Dolly!] seems to me short on charm, warmth, and the intangible quality of distinction in no way alters my conviction that it will be an enormous popular success. Herman has composed a score that is always pleasant and agreeably tuneful, although the only number that comes to mind at the moment is the lively title song. His lyrics could be called serviceable.”
In the New York Herald Tribune, Walter Kerr wrote, “Hello, Dolly! is a musical comedy dream, with Carol Channing the girl of it…. Channing opens wide her big-as-millstone eyes, spreads her white-gloved arms in ecstatic abandon, trots out on a circular runway that surrounds the orchestra, and proceeds to dance rings around the conductor…. With hair like orange sea foam, a contralto like a horse’s neighing, and a confidential swagger, [she is] a musical comedy performer with all the blowzy glamor of the girls on the sheet music of 1916.” Kerr perceived deficiencies in the libretto, though, stating that the “lines are not always as funny as Miss Channing makes them”. John McClain of the New York Journal American particularly praised the staging of the musical, saying that “Gower Champion deserves the big gong for performance beyond the call of duty. Seldom has a corps of dancers brought so much style and excitement to a production which could easily have been pedestrian…. It is difficult to describe the emotion [the song “Hello, Dolly!”] produces. Last night the audience nearly tore up the seats as she led the parade of waiters in a series of encores over the semi-circular runway that extends around the orchestra pit out into the audience, … a tribute to the personal appeal of Miss Channing and the magical inventiveness of Mr. Champion’s staging.”
Awards and Nominations
Original Broadway Production
|1964||New York Drama Critics Circle Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Michael Stewart||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Carol Channing||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Charles Nelson Reilly||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Jerry Herman||Won|
|Best Producer of a Musical||David Merrick||Won|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Gower Champion||Won|
|Best Conductor and Musical Director||Shepard Coleman||Won|
|Best Scenic Design||Oliver Smith||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Freddy Wittop||Won|
|1968||Special Tony Award||Special Award||Pearl Bailey||Won|
|1970||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Performance||Ethel Merman||Won|
1978 Broadway Revival
|1978||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Eddie Bracken||Nominated|
1995 Broadway Revival
|1996||Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
2009 Open Air Theatre Revival
|2010||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Musical Revival||Won|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Samantha Spiro||Won|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Stephen Mear||Won|
The RCA Victorcast recording of the original Broadway production was released in 1964. It was the number-one album on the Billboard pop albums chart for seven weeks and the top album of the year on the Year-End chart. In 1965, a recording of the original London production was released. In 1967, RCA Victor released a recording of the all-black Broadway replacement cast, featuring Pearl Bailey, who also starred in the unrecorded 1975 revival. The movie soundtrack was released in 1969. On November 15, 1994, the 1994 revival cast recording was released.
- In 1964, Armstrong’s recording of the song, “Hello, Dolly!”, rose to number one on the Billboard pop chart, making Armstrong, at age 62, the oldest person ever to accomplish that feat. In the process, Armstrong dislodged The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” from the number-one position they had occupied for 14 consecutive weeks with three different songs.
- The title song was sung in the 1999 film Dick by actor Dan Hedaya, playing President Richard Nixon.
- The red satin, sequin-bedecked costume, designed by Freddy Wittop, that Channing wore during Hello, Dolly! was donated to the Smithsonian by Channing and theatrical producer Manny Kladitis, following the thirtieth anniversary tour of the show. It is currently on display at the National Museum of American History. While Miss Channing’s Harmonia Gardens gown is in the Smithsonian, the remainder of the original Freddy Wittop costumes are now housed in the permanent collection of the Costume World Broadway Collection, a theatrical museum dedicated to Broadway costuming located in Pompano Beach, Florida.
- ^ Grammy Hall of Fame Award
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- ^ Edmonds, Richard. “‘Hello Dolly!’ review” thestage.co.uk, 8 February 2008
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- Botto, Louis (2002-09-01). Robert Viagas, ed. At This Theatre. Applause Books. ISBN 1-55783-566-7.
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- Suskin, Steven (1999-01-01). Show Tunes. New York: Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-512599-1.
- Internet Broadway Database listing for all productions
- Charles Nelson Reilly’s autobiographical film, in which he discusses Hello Dolly
- Playbill list of longest-running Broadway shows (plays and musicals)
- TUTS study guide
- Synopsis,Casting,Choreography,Scenes and Settings
- 1964 New York Times review of original production
- Full References from WIKI