Hello, Dolly! (musical)

Hello, Dolly! is a musical with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart, based on Thornton Wilder's 1938 farce The Merchant of Yonkers, which Wilder revised and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955.

Hello, Dolly! was first produced on Broadway by David Merrick in 1964, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical and nine other Tonys. The show album Hello, Dolly! An Original Cast Recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. The show has become one of the most enduring musical theatre hits, enjoying three Broadway revivals and international success. It was also made into a 1969 film that was nominated for seven Academy Awards.


The plot of Hello, Dolly! originated in Einen Jux will er sich machen (He Will Go on a Spree), an 1842 play by Austrian Johann Nestroy, which was itself based on an 1835 English play, A Day Well Spent. Wilder adapted Nestroy's play into his 1938 farcical play, The Merchant of Yonkers, a flop, which he revised, expanding the role of Dolly, and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955, starring Ruth Gordon. The Matchmaker became a hit and was much revived and made into a 1958 film of the same name starring Shirley Booth. The story of a meddlesome widow who strives to bring romance to several couples and herself in a big city restaurant also features prominently in the 1891 hit musical A Trip to Chinatown.

Although the part of Dolly Levi in the musical was originally written for Ethel Merman, she turned it down, as did Mary Martin (although each later played it). Merrick then considered Nancy Walker, but eventually Carol Channing was hired, giving her the opportunity to create her most memorable role. Director Gower Champion was not the producers' first choice, either; Hal Prince and other directors (among them Jerome Robbins and Joe Layton) turned down the job of directing the musical.

Hello, Dolly! had rocky out-of-town tryouts in Detroit and Washington, D.C. After receiving the reviews, the creators made major changes to the script and score, including adding the song "Before the Parade Passes By. The show was originally entitled Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman, until Merrick heard Louis Armstrong's recording of the song and changed the name of the show.


Act I

It's the turn of the 20th century, and all of New York City is excited because widowed but brassy Dolly Gallagher Levi is in town ("Call On Dolly"). Dolly makes a living through what she calls "meddling" – matchmaking and numerous sidelines, including dance instruction and mandolin lessons ("I Put My Hand In"). She is currently seeking a wife for grumpy Horace Vandergelder, the well-known half-a-millionaire, but it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself. Ambrose Kemper, a young artist, wants to marry Horace's weepy niece Ermengarde, but Horace opposes this because Ambrose's vocation does not guarantee a steady living. Ambrose enlists Dolly's help, and they travel to Yonkers, New York to visit Horace, who is a prominent citizen there and owns Vandergelder's Hay and Feed.

Horace explains to his two clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, that he is going to get married because "It Takes a Woman" to cheerfully do all the household chores. He plans to travel with Dolly to New York City to propose to the widow Irene Molloy, who owns a hat shop there. Dolly arrives in Yonkers and "accidentally" mentions that Irene's first husband might not have died of natural causes, and also mentions that she knows an heiress, Ernestina Money, who may be interested in Horace. Horace leaves for New York and tells Cornelius and Barnaby to mind the store.

Cornelius decides that he and Barnaby need to get out of Yonkers. They'll go to New York, have a good meal, spend all their money, see the stuffed whale in the museum, get arrested, and each kiss a girl! They blow up some tomato cans to create a terrible stench and a good alibi to close the store. Dolly mentions that she knows two ladies in New York they should call on: Irene Molloy and her shop assistant, Minnie Fay. She tells Ermengarde and Ambrose that she'll enter them in the polka competition at the fancy Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in New York City so Ambrose can demonstrate his ability to be a bread winner to Uncle Horace. Cornelius, Barnaby, Ambrose, Ermengarde and Dolly "Put on [their] Sunday Clothes" and take the train to New York.

Irene and Minnie open their hat shop for the afternoon. Irene wants a husband but does not love Horace Vandergelder. She declares that she will wear an elaborate hat to impress a gentleman ("Ribbons Down My Back"). Cornelius and Barnaby arrive at the shop and pretend to be rich. Horace and Dolly arrive at the shop, and Cornelius and Barnaby hide. Irene inadvertently mentions that she knows Cornelius Hackl, and Dolly tells her and Horace that even though Cornelius is Horace's clerk by day, he's a New York playboy by night; he's one of the Hackls. Minnie screams when she finds Cornelius hiding in an armoire. Horace is about to open the armoire himself, but Dolly distracts him with patriotic sentiments ("Motherhood March"). Next, Cornelius sneezes, and Horace storms out, realizing there are men hiding in the shop, but not knowing they are his clerks.

Dolly arranges for Cornelius and Barnaby, who are still pretending to be rich, to take the ladies out to dinner to the Harmonia Gardens to make up for their humiliation. She teaches Cornelius and Barnaby how to dance since they always have dancing at such establishments ("Dancing"). Soon, Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby and Minnie are happily dancing. They go to watch the great Fourteenth Street Association Parade together. Alone, Dolly decides to put her dearly departed husband Ephram behind her and to move on with life "Before the Parade Passes By". She asks Ephram's permission to marry Horace, requesting a sign from him. Dolly catches up with the annoyed Vandergelder as he is playing in a band during the parade, and she convinces him to give her matchmaking one more chance. She tells him that Ernestina Money would be perfect for him and asks him to meet her at the swanky Harmonia Gardens that evening.

Act II

Cornelius and Barnaby are determined to get a kiss before the night is over. As the clerks have no money for a carriage, they tell the girls that walking to the restaurant shows that they've got "Elegance". At the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, Rudolph, the head waiter, whips his crew into shape for Dolly Levi's return: their usual lightning service must be "twice as lightning" ("The Waiters' Gallop"). Horace arrives with his date, but she is not as rich or elegant as Dolly implied; and bored by Horace, she soon leaves, just as Dolly planned.

Cornelius, Barnaby and their dates arrive, unaware that Horace is also dining at the restaurant. Irene and Minnie are excited by the lavish restaurant and decide to order the most expensive items on the menu. Cornelius and Barnaby become increasingly nervous as they have less than a dollar left. Dolly makes her triumphant return to the Harmonia Gardens and is greeted in style by the staff ("Hello, Dolly!") She sits in the now-empty seat at Horace's table and proceeds to eat a large, expensive dinner, telling him that no matter what he says, she will not marry him. Barnaby and Horace hail waiters at the same time, and in the ensuing confusion each drops his wallet and inadvertently picks up the other's. Barnaby is delighted that he can now pay the restaurant bill, while Horace finds only a little spare change. Barnaby and Cornelius realize that the wallet must belong to Horace. Cornelius, Irene, Barnaby and Minnie try to sneak out during the "The Polka Contest", but Horace recognizes them and also spots Eremengarde and Ambrose. The ensuing free-for-all culminates in a trip to night court.

Cornelius and Barnaby confess that they have no money and have never been to New York before. Cornelius declares that even if he has to dig ditches the rest of his life as punishment, he'll be a ditch digger who once had a wonderful day because he met Irene. Cornelius, Barnaby and Ambrose each professes his love for his companion ("It Only Takes A Moment"). Dolly convinces the judge that the only thing everyone is guilty of is being in love. Everyone, that is, except Horace. Dolly mentions marriage again, and Horace declares that he wouldn't marry her if she were the last woman in the world. Dolly angrily bids him "So Long, Dearie"; while he's bored and lonely, she'll be living the high life.

The next morning, back at the hay and feed store, Cornelius and Irene, Barnaby and Minnie, and Ambrose and Ermengarde are each setting out on their own. A chastened Horace Vandergelder finally admits that he needs Dolly in his life, but Dolly is unsure about the marriage until her late husband sends her a sign. Vandergelder spontaneously repeats a saying of Ephram's: "Money is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread about, encouraging young things to grow." Horace tells Dolly life would be dull without her, and she promises that she'll "never go away again" ("Hello, Dolly" (reprise)).

Song list

Act I

  • Call On Dolly - Ensemble
  • I Put My Hand In - Dolly
  • It Takes A Woman - Horace, Cornelius, Barnaby, Ensemble
  • Put On Your Sunday Clothes - Cornelius, Barnaby, Dolly, Ambrose, Ermengarde, and Ensemble
  • Ribbons Down My Back - Irene
  • Motherhood March - Dolly, Irene, Minnie, Horace, Cornelius, and Barnaby
  • Dancing - Dolly, Cornelius, Barnaby, Irene, Minnie, and Dancers
  • Before the Parade Passes By - Dolly, Horace, and the Company
Act II

  • Elegance - Cornelius, Barnaby, Irene, Minnie
  • The Waiters' Gallop - Rudolph and the Waiters
  • Hello, Dolly! - Dolly, Rudolph, Waiters, Cooks
  • The Polka Contest (replaced "Come and Be My Butterfly" early in the run) - instrumental (dance)
  • It Only Takes a Moment - Cornelius and Irene, Prisoners and Policeman
  • So Long, Dearie - Dolly
  • Hello, Dolly! (reprise) - Dolly and Horace
  • Finale Ultimo - The Company


The original Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and produced by David Merrick, opened to rave reviews on January 16 1964 at the St. James Theatre, becoming a Broadway blockbuster in the 1960s and running for 2,844 performances. Carol Channing starred as Dolly Levi, with a supporting cast that included David Burns as Horace, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, Eileen Brennan as Irene, Jerry Dodge as Barnaby, Sondra Lee as Minnie Fay, Alice Playten as Ermengarde, and Igors Gavon as Ambrose. Although facing stiff competition from Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that season, winning awards in ten categories (out of eleven nominations), a record that remained unbroken for 37 years until The Producers won twelve Tonys in 2001.

After Channing left the production, Merrick kept the show playing to capacity houses by casting big name stars in the title role, including Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey (in an all-black version with Cab Calloway), Dorothy Lamour, Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman, for whom Herman originally wrote the show. Two songs cut prior to the opening — typical Mermanesque "belters" entitled "World, Take Me Back" and "Love, Look in My Window" — were restored for her run. Yvonne De Carlo and Alice Faye played the role on tour.

The original Dolly production went on to become the longest-running musical (and third longest-running show) in Broadway history up to that time, surpassing My Fair Lady and then being surpassed in turn by Fiddler on the Roof. According to the 2004 book, Broadway: The American Musical, the Broadway production of Hello Dolly grossed US$27 million. "The 1960s was the decade that nurtured long-running blockbusters in unprecedented quantities: ten musicals passed the rarefied 1,000 performance mark, three of them passed the 2,000 mark.... Hello, Dolly! and Fiddler remained the longest-running Broadway record holders for almost 10 years until Grease pushed them both down a rank. Revivals and film Hello, Dolly! has been revived three times on Broadway, including an all-black production (with Bailey and Billy Daniels) in 1975 (42 performances), and two with Channing, the first in 1978 (147 performances), the second in 1995 (116 performances). It was also made into a 1969 musical film, directed by Gene Kelly and starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, that was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three (including Best Music).West End The musical's original production on London's West End opened on December 2, 1965 and ran for 794 performances at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Champion directed and choreographed, and the cast starred Mary Martin as Dolly and Loring Smith as Horace Vandergelder, with Johnny Beecher as Barnaby, Garrett Lewis as Cornelius and Marilynn Lovell as Irene Molloy. Dora Bryan replaced Martin during the run. A 1984 revival played at the Prince of Wales Theatre. A UK tour is playing in 2008.Tours, US and International Mary Martin, before playing Dolly in the West End, starred in a US tour, starting in April 1965 and playing in 11 cities. The production also toured in Japan, Korea and Vietnam for a special USO performance for U.S. troops. A second US tour began in September 1965, headed by Channing, and ran for two years and nine months. Eve Arden and Dorothy Lamour were replacements. The original German production of Hello, Dolly!, with the title character's surname "Wassiljewa" (Vasilyeva) rather than "Levi," starred Tatjana Iwanow (Tatyana Ivanov). In 1996, Mexican diva Silvia Pinal starred in the Spanish language version of the musical ¿Qué tal Dolly? ("What's Up, Dolly?") opposite Ignacio Lopez Tarso in Mexico City.

Critical Reception

In his review of the opening night performance, New York Times theatre critic Howard Taubman wrote "Hello, Dolly!...has qualities of freshness and imagination that are rare in the run of our machine-made musicals. It transmutes the broadly stylized mood of a mettlesome farce into the gusto and colors of the musical stage...Mr. Herman's songs are brisk and pointed and always tuneful...Here in a shrewdly mischievous performance by Carol Channing is the endlessly resourceful widow, Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi...Making the necessary reservations for the unnecessary vulgar and frenzied touches, one is glad to welcome Hello, Dolly! for its warmth, color and high spirits.

Broadway awards and nominations

  • 1964 Tony Award Best Musical (winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Composer and Lyricist (Jerry Herman, winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical (Carol Channing, winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Charles Nelson Reilly, nominee)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Scenic Design (winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Costume Design (Freddy Wittop, winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Choreography (winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical (winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Conductor and Musical Director (winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Producer of a Musical (winner)
  • 1964 Tony Award Best Author of a Musical (winner)
  • 1969 Special Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre (Pearl Bailey, winner)
  • 1970 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Performance (Ethel Merman, winner)
  • 1978 Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical (Eddie Bracken, nominee)
  • 1996 Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical (nominee)

Cultural Influence

  • In 1964, Armstrong's recording of the song, "Hello, Dolly!", rose to #1 on the pop chart, making Armstrong, at age 63, the oldest person to ever accomplish that feat. In the process, Armstrong dislodged The Beatles from the #1 position they had occupied for 14 consecutive weeks with three different songs.
  • A French recording by Petula Clark charted in the Top Ten in both Canada and France, and her Spanish version, "¿Qué tal Dolly?", was a hit as well.
  • The title song was sung in the 1999 film Dick by actor Dan Hedaya, playing President Richard Nixon.



External links

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