12 Things You Should Know About Hello, Dolly!

12 Things You Should Know About Hello, Dolly!
By Robert Viagas

19 Jan 2016

Bette Midler announced Jan. 18 that she is returning to Broadway in 2017 to play Dolly Gallagher Levi in a major revival of the musical Hello, Dolly! Here are some facts you should know about the show.

* Dolly, which opened Jan. 15, 1964, was the Hamilton of its time, selling out instantly and remaining a hot ticket for years.

* Carol Channing was not the first choice to play the title role. Originally conceived for Ethel Merman, it sought at least two other actresses, Mary Martin and Nancy Walker, before settling on Channing. It became one of her signature roles, along with Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. (Merman later went into the production, and composer Jerry Herman restored two songs to the score he had written especially for her.)

Carol Channing

* The original cast included David Burns, Eileen Brennan, Charles Nelson Reilly and Sondra Lee.

* Dolly opened the same season as Funny Girl, pitting Channing against Barbra Streisand, in her iconic performance as Fanny Brice, for the Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award. Channing won.

* Streisand never forgot. She starred in both the film of Funny Girl and of Hello, Dolly!

* Channing’s Tony Award was one of 11 (a record at the time) won by Hello, Dolly!, also including Best Musical, Best Author of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Composer and Lyricist, Best Conductor and Musical Director, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Best Producer of a Musical and Best Scenic Design. Several of these categories have been discontinued or renamed.

Barbra Streisand in the film adaptation

* How hot was Dolly? Channing was chosen to sing at the halftime show for Super Bowl IV and Super Bowl VI.

* The original cast album was No. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart for seven weeks, at the height of the 1960s rock era.

* Louis Armstrong‘s recording of the title song hit No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart, ending the Beatles’ domination of the top slot for 14 weeks in a row.

* Late in the show’s run, with ticket sales finally flagging, producer David Merrick put it back in the sellout column by replacing the entire cast of white actors with African-American actors. The recast Dolly! starred Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.

* Hello, Dolly! closed Dec. 27, 1970, after 2,844 performances, edging out previous record holder My Fair Lady (2,717 performances), for the title of longest-running musical in Broadway history. That run was exceeded by Fiddler on the Roof about a year later.

* Gene Kelly directed the film of Dolly!, which was one of the top-grossing films of 1969-70, but was so expensive to make that it lost a reported $10 million. The film co-starred Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford and Tommy Tune. Its failure helped to end the golden age of Hollywood musicals

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