Well Hello, Midler!
The Great White Way is abuzz this morning with an epic announcement worthy of its own lit marquee: legendary theater, television, and film actress Bette Midler will return to Broadway in 2017 in the leading role of Dolly Levi in a revival of the 11-time Tony-Award-winning Broadway musical Hello, Dolly.
Midler teased the announcement rather obviously on her Twitter last night, and followed it up with a more official tweet this morning in addition to a statement.
Midler’s statement said: "I am looking forward to portraying one of the most beloved characters in all of American Musical Comedy, Dolly Levi, born Gallagher, in Hello, Dolly! I know I'm going to have the time of my life, and I am so glad to be under the wings of Scott Rudin as Producer and Jerry Zaks as Director. See you next year!”
Midler last appeared on Broadway in 2013 when she sold the house out (and brought it down) in the one-woman show I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers. She also performed in three Broadway concerts: 1973’s Bette Midler, 1975’s Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue, and 1979’s Bette! Divine Madness, after debuting in 1967 in Fiddler On The Roof. She also produced 2011’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Tony-Award-winning director Jerry Zaks has an impressive pedigree of his own...
Zaks has previously directed the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, the 2003 revival of Little Shop of Horrors, the 2004 revival of La Cage aux Folles and the 2011 production of Steven Schwartz’s Sister Act. He also won Tony awards for his work with Six Degrees of Separation, The House of Blue Leaves, and Lend Me A Tenor.
Jerry Herman, the composer and lyricist of Hello, Dolly issued his own statement as well: "Many times through the years I've been asked about bringing back Hello, Dolly! – and it has always been, 'Who would be my dream Dolly?’… Who is out there that has the necessary stature, warmth, the incredible talent and ability, and especially the singular, outsized personality that I was looking for in a 21st century Dolly? Only one person: Bette Midler. Only Bette could bring Dolly brilliantly back to 'the lights of 14th Street!’”
This revival of Dolly is set to begin performances on March 13, 2017 with an opening night of April 20th, 2017. The growing production team has yet to announce a theater. Producer Scott Rudin is also simultaneously involved in three plays and a musical this coming Spring.
Hello, Dolly debuted on Broadway in 1964 with Carol Channing in the title role (despite the part having been initially written for Ethel Merman). A veritable who’s who of Broadway’s leading ladies have at one time or other played the role. This list includes Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Mary Martin, Phyllis Diller, Bibi Osterwald, Thelma Carpenter, Pearl Bailey and Ethel Merman. In a 1969 film adaptation of the musical, Barbara Streisand played the role.
The musical has a book written by Michael Stewart, which was based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 farce, The Merchant of Yonkers, a play that was then revised, retitled, and revived in 1955 as The Matchmaker. Hello, Dolly goes even farther back, all the way to 1835 where it began life as an English play called A Day Well Spent written by John Oxenford.
The original production of Hello, Dolly ran for 2,844 performances. Its most recent revival was in 1995 with Carol Channing reprising the role.