Jane wrote about the HELLO DOLLY tour in her 1985 autobiography, MY PATH AND MY DETOURS. The reference to the tour can be found on pages 251 – 253. She did not do the tour. She was replaced by Yvonne DeCarlo.
The role of Dolly Levi in the musical was originally written for Ethel Merman, but Merman turned it down, as did Mary Martin (although each eventually played it).Merrick then auditioned Nancy Walker. Eventually, he hired Carol Channing, who then created in Dolly her signature role. Director Gower Champion was not the producer’s first choice, as Hal Prince and others (among them Jerome Robbins and Joe Layton) all turned down the job of directing the musical. Read more about it in Brian Kellow’s biography of Ethel Merman.
George B. Bryan. Ethel Merman: A Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press, 1992.
Carol Channing, one of America’s most beloved and enduring theatrical legends, takes on her most challenging role yet: as the author of this funny, ribald, and moving memoir.Known across the nation for her portrayal of the irresistible Dolly Levi, the title character of the Broadway musical phenomenon, “Hello, Dolly!,” Carol Channing is perhaps the only living theatrical star whose name brings a smile to the face of people in virtually every city and town across America and Canada, to say nothing of London, Melbourne, and Sydney. Her performance as the droll and leggy Lorelei Lee in the Broadway version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” made her a star and launched a career that has spanned over fifty years and has included a number of Broadway plays, many television appearances, and two movies, including “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Capping them all, of course, was her Tony award-winning signature performance as the irrepressible Dolly.
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BEFORE THE PARADE PASSES BY: GOWER CHAMPION AND THE GLORIOUS AMERICAN MUSICAL by John Anthony Gilvey, St. Martins Press, 2005
During the Golden Age of the Broadway musical, few director-choreographers could infuse a new musical with dance and movement in quite the way Gower Champion could. From his earliest Broadway success with Bye Bye Birdie to his triumphant and bittersweet valedictory, 42nd Street, musicals directed by Champion filled the proscenium with life. At their best, they touched the heart and stirred the soul with a skillful blend of elegance and American showmanship.
He began his career as one-half of “America’s Youngest Dance Team” with Jeanne Tyler and later teamed with his wife, dance partner, and longtime collaborator, Marge Champion. This romantic ballroom duo danced across America in the smartest clubs and onto the television screen, performing story dances that captivated the country. They ultimately took their talent to Hollywood, where they starred in the 1951 remake of Show Boat, Lovely to Look At, and other films. But Broadway always called to Champion, and in 1959 he was tapped to direct Bye Bye Birdie. The rest is history.
In shows like Birdie, Carnival, Hello, Dolly!, I Do! I Do!, Sugar, and 42nd Street, luminaries such as Chita Rivera, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Robert Preston, Tony Roberts, Robert Morse, Tammy Grimes, and Jerry Orbach brought Champion’s creative vision to life. Working with composers and writers like Jerry Herman, Michael Stewart, Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, and Bob Merrill, he streamlined the musical making it flow effortlessly with song and dance from start to finish.
John Gilvey has spoken with many of the people who worked with Champion, and in Before the Parade Passes By he tells the life story of this most American of Broadway musical director-choreographers from his early days dancing with Marge to his final days spent meticulously honing the visual magic of 42nd Street. Before the Parade Passes By is the life story of one man who personified the glory of the Broadway musical right up until the moment of his untimely death. When the curtain fell to thunderous applause on the opening night of 42nd Street, August 25, 1980, legendary impresario David Merrick came forward, silenced the audience, and announced that Champion had died that morning. As eminent theatre critic Ethan Mordden has firmly put it, “the Golden Age was over.”
Though the Golden Age of the Broadway musical is over, John Gilvey brings it to life again by telling the story of Gower Champion, one of its most passionate and creative legends.
Sometimes Broadway dreams do come true.
Fresh from the obscurity of living in the small farming community of Grove, Oklahoma, Ronald Young, at 22, is catapulted onto New York City’s “Great White Way”… BROADWAY.
After arriving in Manhattan on a Friday, he auditions for his first Broadway show on Monday. Bingo! After three call back auditions he snags his first dancing role in the soon to be mega hit “HELLO, DOLLY!” directed and choreographed by Gower Champion and starring Carol Channing.
Armed with three music degrees and lots of enthusiasm he embarks on his career on Broadway. His resumé includes working with some of the legends of the theater: Ethel Merman, Shirley Booth, Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Joel Gray, Chita Rivera, Sandy Duncan, Georgia Engel and many others. He appeared in a host of shows: “MAME,” “GEORGE M!” “THE BOY FRIEND,” “MY ONE AND ONLY,” “A CHORUS LINE” and the films “HAIR” and “ANNIE.”
“THE ONLY BOY WHO DANCED” is a series of compelling, riveting stories about Ronald Young’s personal quest to make it on Broadway. If you or a friend have hidden aspirations to make it on the New York theatrical scene, you will enjoy his tips and suggestions on how to break through this tough barrier.
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