Celebrating the Birth of Hello, Dolly!

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Hello, Dolly! is a two-act musical comedy based on Thornton Wilder’s The Merchant of Yonkers which was revised and retitled The Matchmaker. The play revolves around the life of a widow named Dolly Levi who is a matchmaker by profession. She takes on a mission of finding a match for Horace Vandergelder, the famed unmarried half-a-millionaire. Along the way, she persuades Horace’s niece, with her assistant, and the two clerks to take a trip to New York City. Interestingly, she settled on the thought of pairing herself with Horace and the two clerks with his niece and his niece’s assistant.

The comedy’s plot can be traced back to Johann Nestroy’s farce Einen Jux will er sich machen (He Will Go on a Spree) that was inspired from an English play entitled A Day Well Spent by John Oxenford.

When 1938 play The Merchant of Yonkers failed completely, Thorton Wilder decided to revise the script by magnifying the role of Dolly; thus, The Matchmaker was born in 1955. The revision became a hit and was revived a number of times.

Originally entitled Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman and later Call on Dolly, the show received critical reviews from the rough and shaky out-of-town rehearsals that inspired the creators to further make revisions.

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In 1964, producer David Merrick, together with choreographer Gower Champion, marked the initial production of Hello Dolly! in reference to the timely release of  an infamous version of Hello, Dolly! by Louis Armstrong, one of the most influential icons in jazz at that time.

Without a warning, the show rose to a dramatic score of 2,844 performances, redefining success for the Broadway musical category. It was branded as one of the longest-running Broadway shows and reigned as one of the widely acknowledged Broadway shows in the whole world.

In 1969, Hello, Dolly! was translated into a romantic film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three. The film earned $33.2 million at the box office in the United States, gaining a status in the top five highest-grossing films of the year.

The show was revived three times on Broadway and three times in the West End. Several international productions were done in German, Spanish, and Cuban.

There’s something to watch out for in 2017!

It has been announced that there will be another revival in 2017, which will be produced by Scott Rudin, directed by Jerry Zaks, and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. The production will be starred by Bette Midler as Dolly Levi and David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder.

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD