Hello, Dolly! is one of the most popular Broadway musicals ever written. It opened at the St. James Theater in New York City on January 16, 1964 and ran for 2,844 performances, becoming the longest running musical for its time. Although facing stiff competition from Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that season, winning awards in 10 categories, a record that remained unbroken for 37 years until The Producers won 12 Tonys in 2001. The musical has been successfully revived three times.
A widowed matchmaker named Dolly Levi takes a trip to Yonkers, New York to see a prominent, wealthy bachelor named Horace Vandergelder. While there, she convinces him, his two stock clerks, his niece, and her beau to go to New York City, where Dolly, who is attracted to Vandergelder, arranges a match between the two clerks and the woman Vandergelder had been courting, and that woman's shop assistant. A web of complicated romantic entanglements ensues, and by the end of the story, each character ends up with their ideal partner.
The subject for Hello, Dolly! originated in the play Einen Jux will er sich machen (1842) by Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy. This was adapted by Thornton Wilder for his play The Matchmaker, which was produced on Broadway by David Merrick and then made into a 1958 film of the same name, directed by Joseph Anthony and starring Shirley Booth, Anthony Perkins, Shirley MacLaine, Paul Ford, and Robert Morse. (More recently, an English version of Nestroy's play by Tom Stoppard, entitled On the Razzle, was produced in London in the 1980s.)
The musical score of Hello, Dolly! (both music and lyrics) was written by Jerry Herman, who also composed the scores of the musicals Mame and La Cage aux Folles. The book for Dolly was written by Michael Stewart, who also wrote the books for the musicals Bye Bye Birdie, and 42nd Street. Hello, Dolly! was produced by David Merrick, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, and starred Carol Channing as Dolly Gallagher Levi, David Burns as Horace Vandergelder, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius Hackl, and Eileen Brennan as Irene Malloy. The plot revolves around widowed turn-of-the-century matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, who finds her own match, after leading the wealthy would-be groom on a wild goose chase and arranging an alternative suitor for his proposed bride.
Long after Channing left the cast, producer David Merrick kept the show playing to capacity houses by hiring big name stars for the title role, including Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey (in an all-black version with Cab Calloway as Horace Vandergelder), Dorothy Lamour, Ethel Merman - for whom Herman originally wrote his score - and even Phyllis Diller. Mary Martin played the role in London's West End, Japan, and Vietnam for a special U.S.O. performance for U.S. troops. However, the role was forever to be identified with Channing, who in later years starred in a Broadway revival and toured extensively in a U.S. national tour.
Louis Armstrong's rendition of the title song "Hello, Dolly!" was a #1 hit on the American pop charts. A French recording by Petula Clark charted in the Top Ten in both Canada and France. The many popular showtunes in Hello, Dolly! include Before the Parade Passes By, It Only Takes a Moment, and Put On Your Sunday Clothes.
Streisand got her revenge for losing the Tony to Channing when she was cast as Dolly in the 1969 film. Produced by 20th Century Fox, it was directed by Gene Kelly, and the supporting cast included Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew, Danny Lockin, E.J. Peaker, Tommy Tune, and Fritz Feld, with a cameo by Louis Armstrong in what would be his final film appearance. It won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation), and Best Sound. It also was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture. Ironically, though the film appeared in list of the top-grossing films of the year, the film did not recoup its $24 million cost. In addition, some have criticized the film because of Streisand's age at the time of filming. But the film was vindicated much later when it was first released on videotape, garnering over one million dollars in units in the early days of the format (almost as successful as The Sound of Music).
¡Que tal, Dolly!
In 1996, Mexican diva Silvia Pinal starred in the Spanish language version of the musical ¡Que tal, Dolly! opposite Ignacio Lopez Tarso. The play was a success in Mexico City.