Pearl Bailey

Celebrating Black History Month in Theatre
Posted on 02/17/2021
Image of Hello, Dolly(from Mark Zimmerman, theatre arts director Firestone CLC and Akron School for the Arts)

In 1967, Bailey and Cab Calloway headlined an all-black cast version of "Hello, Dolly!"

A touring version of the show was so successful, producer David Merrick took it to Broadway where it played to sold-out houses and revitalized the long-running musical. Bailey was given a special Tony Award for her role, and RCA Victor made a second original cast album. That is the only recording of the score to have an overture which was written especially for that recording.

In his New York Times review, Clive Barnes wrote, “For Miss Bailey, this was a Broadway triumph for the history books. She had no trouble at all in stopping the show -- her problem was getting it started again. On her entrance, the audience wouldn’t even let her begin.

After about a minute’s applause, she cleared her throat, grinned amiably and … murmured: ‘I’ve got a few more words to say in this show’… Bailey took the whole musical in her hands and swung it around her neck as easily as if it were a feather boa.” Mr. Barnes also noted the “polished” and “stylish” Mr. Calloway and that seated “center front” was Miss Channing, “a blaze of platinum hair.”

The Broadway production ran for two years before Bailey’s health problems forced it to close. She toured with the show after her recovery and again in the mid-1970s.

Image of Hello, Dolly
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