Friday, July 11, 2008


Okay, so I'm about the seven thousandth person to make that pun. Sue me. However, thanks to the fantastic Pixar animation film Wall-E, which is one of the most loved films to come about this year, there is talk of the Nederlanders presenting their long-awaited revival of Hello, Dolly! It had actually been discussed when the revival of La Cage Aux Folles was first announced a few years back that the Nederlander Organization would present revivals of La Cage, Dolly! and Mame in succession. However, with the disappointing six month run of La Cage, the other two shows seemed to be put on the back burner.

Fast forward to right now. Jerry Herman is excited. The buzz created from the film is stratospheric. The Nederlanders' interest is back up. And the internet boards are abuzz with chatter about who would make the perfect Dolly Gallagher Levi. So it makes perfect sense to strike when the iron is hot. And let's face it, the film adaptation of Dolly is pretty lackluster. Barbra Streisand was somewhat out of her element (even if the note she holds at the end of "Before the Parade Passes By" for sixteen bars is impressive), the overall picture was low on humor and ultimately bloated with too much spectacle and little heart, with the story of Dolly's re-emergence feeling lost in the shuffle. Another problem, for me, is that because of her youth and vibrance, there is a certain gravitas lost in the character's arc. Where has she been?)

Jerry himself weighs in on some various "suggestions" in Variety:

Herman has been thinking of possible actresses to topline the revival for some time. While he concedes the role demands "a big star," he declines to name any frontrunner. He acknowledges eyeing Queen Latifah to play Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, but says her busy film career would make that casting problematic -- at least so far.

Chat rooms and theater insiders have been volunteering casting ideas that range from the fantastic to the obvious: Oprah Winfrey ("An exciting idea, but I don't think she could devote a year to the production," says Herman); Meryl Streep ("She can do anything."); Barbra Streisand, star of the 1969 screen version ("She's the right age now, but she's never coming back to Broadway."); Patti LuPone ("Magnificent."); Reba McEntire ("I'm crazy for her, but I'm not sure about the accent."); Bernadette Peters ("We were close friends and I obviously love this lady, but I just don't know.").

Interesting comments from Mr. Herman. Hell, I think this revival should replicate the original: replace one formidable star with another. Why not have all these ladies come down the red staircase akin to Carol, Ginger, Betty, Martha, Pearlie Mae, Phyllis and Ethel.

It's refreshing to see something Broadway related so fresh in the mindset of current popular culture. Makes me feel like I've seen a flash of what it would have been like to be a theatre fan in 1956.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I guess I need to see that movie. Kudos to you for linking us through to the Variety piece! I've only seen high school productions of Hello Dolly (along with the film version) and would love to see a professional mounting someday.

Theatre Aficionado at Large said...

I have never seen a production of the stage production myself, but I've seen the film (a disappointment) and read through the stage script and score.

People often dismiss the show as a mere musical comedy, when the character of Dolly has one of the most heartwarming arcs in the canon.

If you've never seen it, I highly suggest checking out Carol Channing's performance from the 1973 Tony Awards, in which she sang "Before the Parade Passes By," preceded by her monologue to Ephraim in which she a. decides to rejoin the human race and b. asks him to give her away.

I would enjoy Bernadette or Vicki in the part. Any other ideas...?

Marc Acito said...

Yet another example of musicals making a comeback. HOORAY. BTW, did you see the documentary "Words and Music by Jerry Herman" that aired last year? It had some amazing footage including Carol Channing doing the "Holly Dolly!" title number.

Theatre Aficionado at Large said...

I watched the Jerry Herman documentary on New Year's Eve and was floored by all the footage. Loved seeing Carol doing the title song, but also seeing Mary Martin do her Japanese version for the Tokyo crowd.

I was discussing this at coffee literally an hour ago with a beloved English teacher of mine, but the footage of Angela Lansbury as the Countess Aurelia in Dear World is among the most mesmerizing I've ever seen.

sally said...

I saw Pearl Bailey as Dolly in '68 or '69. She was fabulous. Queen Latifah is a wonderful idea. I thought she was the best thing about the movie of Chicago.