Carol Channing came to national prominence as the star of Jerry Herman’s Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! in 1964….as her performance as Dolly Levi won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical…. while she recalled that playwright Thornton Wilder so loved the musical….which was based on his play, The Matchmaker, that he came once a week. He also planned to rewrite his 1942 play The Skin of Our Teeth, with Channing playing the parts of both Mrs. Antrobus and Sabina….but he died before he could finish it.
The old-fashioned plot of Hello, Dolly….when first described….might seem uninspired, says columnist Dick Kleiner….“But then you sit in the audience and Carol Channing comes out, turns on her huge eyes and monumental smile—and you sit there with a silly grin on your face for 2 1/2 hours, bathed in the benevolent spell of a great comedienne…It is hard to imagine her doing anything else but making people smile. She is that human curio, the born female comic”.
The show had first opened on Broadway on January 16, 1964….and by the time the show closed in late December 1970….it had become the longest-running musical in Broadway history, with nearly 3,000 performances. Besides Channing, six other stars played the title role during those seven years….to include Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller and Ethel Merman.