World, She's Coming Back! The History of 'HELLO, DOLLY!'

I have made it very clear before that my favourite kind of musicals are the classics, and especially ones that started their life on Broadway. Well, if and when I get myself down to Broadway next year, Bette Midler will be playing one of musical theatre's most iconic roles: Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! To celebrate this absolutely amazing news, today I thought I'd take you all through the history of this iconic-yet-sometimes-overlooked Broadway classic.

Now, I call Hello, Dolly! "overlooked" because I feel like it's a show that many people have heard of, but not many have ever indulged in. Perhaps this is because the last time a production was seen on the main stem, it was over twenty years ago. So, for those who don't know the story, the musical (with music by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart) is loosely based upon the Thornton Wilder 1938 farcical play The Merchant of Yonkers (which is in turn based upon the 1835 English play A Day Well Spent by John Oxenford), which tells the story of socialite and self-appointed matchmaker Dolly Levi and her return to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. In New York, Dolly spends her time trying to find the wonderful Horace a bride, while also matching her other friends, despite the fact that her intentions to marry him herself are very clear. The show is full of typical farcical humour, but is also filled with love and empowerment.

Hello, Dolly! started its life with out of town tryouts in both Detroit and Washington and it's safe to say that the show had a rocky start. The role of Dolly Levi was originally written for Ethel Merman who turned the role down; she did however end up as a replacement Dolly in the original Broadway run. The show's original title was 'Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman', which was changed to 'Call on Dolly' until Louis Armstrong released his very successful cover of the show's title song "Hello, Dolly!". The show became one of the most iconic Broadway musicals of the 1960s and at the time of the show's closure on Broadway, it was the longest running show in Broadway history. The original Broadway run started performances on January 16th 1964 at the St James Theatre and closed on December 27th 1970 after almost 3000 performances. Carol Channing, who went on to make the role the most iconic thing she ever did in her career, starred as Dolly Levi and despite competition at the Tony's that year from Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, the show managed to win in a record-breaking 10 categories out of 11 nominations including Best Musical and Best Leading Actress in a Musical which made it joint highest-winning show in Tony history with South Pacific, a feat that wasn't beaten until 2001 when The Producers won 11.The cast album of the show was Number 1 on the Billboard charts for seven weeks and was the number one album of the year-end in 1964. The most famous version of the show is arguably the Barbra Streisand-fronted movie adaptation of 1969, which was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture. The critically acclaimed movie also starred the likes of Michael Crawford and Tommy Tune.

On December 2nd 1965, the show made its West End debut at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and ran for 794 performances. Mary Martin took on the role of Dolly Levi after having turned the role in the Original Broadway company and was later replaced by Olivier Award-winner Dora Bryan. The show has also been revived in the UK a few times with notable other British productions being a 1979 revival back at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane starring Carol Channing herself, a 1984 revival at the Prince of Wales Theatre, the Olivier-winning Best Revival of the show at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2009 and the 2008 UK tour starring Anita Dobson. On Broadway, the show has also had three major revivals: an all-black production at the Minskoff Theatre in 1975, a Carol Channing-led revival at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1978, and another Carol Channing-led revival at the Lunt-Fontanne over 20 years later in 1995. Oh yes, this means that Bette Midler will be headlining the show's fifth Broadway production in 2017 - only the second time that Carol Channing has not been at the front of a Broadway production of the show!

Hello, Dolly! truly is one of Broadway's most iconic shows in history and I'm elated to see it being born again on the Great White Way next year with someone as iconic as Bette Midler at the helm. I look forward to a cast album and, if all goes to plan, catching her in the show, too!

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