Black History on Broadway: Celebrating Hello, Dolly! Starring Pearl Bailey

Photo Features   Black History on Broadway: Celebrating Hello, Dolly! Starring Pearl Bailey
 
Led by Bailey in 1967, the original Broadway production was re-invented with an all-Black cast, garnering acclaim from audiences and critics alike.
Jack Crowder, Emily Yancy, Pearl Bailey, and Winston DeWitt
Jack Crowder, Sherri Peaches Brewer, Pearl Bailey, and Winston DeWitt Hemsley Friedman-Abeles/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

While the original Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! opened in 1964, the musical made history again when Pearl Bailey took over the title role November 12, 1967. With Bailey’s arrival, the production was re-invented with an all-Black cast, featuring actor and jazz singer Cab Calloway performing as Dolly’s love interest, Horace Vandergelder.

The new iteration of the Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart musical was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike as Bailey gave new life to a long-running production. Notably, in its review the New York Times stated, “For Miss Bailey this was a Broadway triumph for the history books… She took the whole musical in her hands and swung it around her neck as easily as if it were a feather boa.”

Bailey earned a special Tony Award in 1968 for her performance, and the entire cast recorded its own cast album as well—an unusual practice then and now.

The original production of Hello, Dolly closed in 1970, but Bailey came back to Broadway in the role for a new revival that was created expressly for her in 1975, this time appearing alongside recording artist Billy Daniels.

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