As opening night nears for Broadway sensation “Hello, Dolly!,” Bette Midler has had a wild week in previews.
On Friday night, we hear, she had a coughing fit that stopped the show cold. But she ad-libbed her way out of it, as a co-star even brought her a cup of water and a lozenge onstage. She regained her composure and ended the scene by quipping, “Live theater, who can beat it?” before falling to the floor, bringing the house down and getting a standing ovation for her efforts.
Said a witness at the show, “The preview period for ‘Hello, Dolly!’ got more interesting as opening night approaches” on Thursday (April 20). On Friday, “At the culminating moment of Act 1, when Bette is expected to belt out the classic ‘Before the Parade Passes By,’ she had an unexpected coughing fit. It stopped the musical dead in its tracks.” Midler was able to quip to the crowd, “Wish me luck,” as she continued to cough.
Her co-star, “Gavin Creel, a trouper in his own right, raced onstage and handed the actress a much-welcome plastic cup of water. Midler, as Dolly, purred a ‘thank you’ and then tried the number again, belting out the classic flawlessly. Bette’s performance brought the audience to its feet even before the number ended.”
Another source told us that “later in the scene, when Creel and Kate Baldwin entered, Gavin brought Bette a lozenge and she made a joke, ‘Live theater! Who can beat it?’ and fell to the floor. The audience went nuts.” She received three standing ovations during the night.
When asked for comment on the coughing fit, uber-producer Scott Rudin said, “I can’t think of anyone else on Broadway — ever — who has started a number with a coughing fit and ended it with 1,500 people on their feet cheering.”
The musical revival has set records before opening with more than $40 million in advance ticket sales.