Tony Awards, 1964, Hello Dolly

23 Mar

hello dolly


While everything that became popular in 1964-1965 is usually attributed to the Kennedy Assassination, there’s a strong case for Hello Dolly.   I wasn’t alive then, but after any national trauma entertainment tends to go into an escapist comfort food place.   So while satires on contemporary times were all the rage the last three or four seasons, Dolly is a very traditional musical, not all that different than a Rogers and Hammerstein production.  Not that I’m complaining, the music is incredibly solid, Carol Channing is delightful, and this musical broke a ton of records.

I must mention something about the records here–now on Broadway shows tend to have very long runs–5 years+ for a successful show, back in the mid-sixties a big show might run 2 years, most shows ran less than that.  If you look at listings of Broadway productions around that time, it wasn’t unusual for there to be 20-30 new musical productions a year.  Now we’re lucky to get more than 7.  I’m not saying that this is better or worse, though very often things stick around on Broadway much longer than they deserve to these days.

Also I have to warn you about the movie–people will watch it and get the wrong impression.  Don’t get me wrong, Barbra Streisand sings great here (though Walter Matthau is not a great singer at all.)   However, the movie Hello Dolly is completely different–trying to revive the old style MGM musical–and it ends up looking like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.   The Broadway Musical is much more fun and interesting and just oozes personality.

There’s rumors of bringing this back to Broadway, and while there are oodles of women who would just love to play the part, I’m wondering if they could pull it off.  It’s turned into one of those community theatre shows that has been done nearly to death.    I hope they would work hard to find a fresh new take without ruining the central character.   Nothing else could have possibly won the Tony that year.

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