Home » Lee Roy Reams (Director)


Lee Roy Reams’ journey to Hello, Dolly! began essentially when he appeared as Henry Spofford on Broadway in Lorelei. Channing and he had become good friends and she called him on the phone one day and said, “Lee Roy? It’s Carol. Carol Channing? I’m doing a revival of Hello, Dolly and I want you to play Cornelius Hackl. Jerry Herman and Lucia Victor, the director don’t know you, darling. So, you have to audition, but don’t worry, you got the part.” Lee Roy went in and auditioned and he did get the part and that was his introduction to DollyAND Jerry Herman and Lucia Victor, whom he adored. This was 1974. Lucia was Gower Champion’s production stage manager on the original production, eventually taking over and directing.  They had the choreographer, Jack Craig, who was the keeper of the Champion legacy. He was also a dear friend of Lucia’s. As a matter of fact, Lucia, Jack, and his partner, who was also the stage manager, all lived together!

Nicole Croisille

They had the original people doing the show for the most part and they loved it. It was just brilliant. Gower’s work in Dolly, next to 42nd Street, is among the best works ever done on Broadway.

They toured for one year before settling into the Lunt-Fontaine Theater on Broadway. This tour began with Broadway planned as the “final” destination.

It was advertised as a pre-Broadway tour. This production also had Eddie Bracken as Horace Vandergelder. He was nominated for a Tony Award. Lee Roy says he was just wonderful. Vandergelder is actually supposed to be Dutch. He is usually played by Jewish actors. For some strange reason, they have the cadence to make the comedy work. Bracken really was a perfect Horace Vandergelder. A lovely man and quite a gentleman.  Everyone was in love with this production.  Alix Korey, listed as Alexandra in the program was Minnie Fay. She was fresh out of the acclaimed Broadway revival of Fiorello! Robert Lydiard was Barnaby. Robert was no stranger to Dolly, having portrayed Barnaby from Maine to Texas opposite such ladies as Marion Marlowe, Betty O’Neill and Vivian Blaine. They were doing everything as it was originally done.

That is the show that Lee Roy was taught.

Eddie Bracken

Lucia Victor, Lee Roy told me, did everything that Gower wanted. That is the way the show was constructed.  Jerry Herman was also hands on, to a degree. He wasn’t around a lot, but he was involved.

When Lee Roy auditioned, Jerry Herman said, “For the first time, I’m going to have a singing Cornelius.” Jerry was thrilled about that. At the first run through, Jerry came in. When Lee Roy and Florence Lacy (Irene Molloy) sang It Only Takes a Moment, Jerry cried. He stopped the show and came up and hugged them both. Tears were streaming down his face and he said, “This is the way I heard this song in my head.” That moment began a lifelong relationship with Jerry. Lacey was in the show because of Rock Hudson. He had discovered her at a party at Rock Hudson’s. She was doing John Brown’s Body with Hudson and he fell in love with her, as all do.  She got up to sing at a party with Jerry playing for her. She didn’t even know who he was. He played Bill from Show Boat and he, too, fell in love with her. So when the pre-Broadway tour was being planned, Jerry wanted Flo and Carol wanted Lee Roy. Flo and Lee Roy did not know each other. They had never met. Lee Roy is thinking to himself, “Oh, great. Jerry Herman’s best friend. Mrs. Molloy…I wonder what she’s gonna look like.” You can imagine what he thought in his head!

He’s thinking an overweight mezzo soprano who is Jerry’s best friend. The first day of rehearsal, in comes this gorgeous woman. He looked at those blue eyes and ivory skin and brown hair and he gasped. She was so gorgeous, and then she sang.

The hair on his neck stood up. It was love at first sight. After they met, he told Flo, “You know, Flo? I don’t know how to tell you this, but when I heard that you were Jerry Herman’s best friend, you can’t even imagine what I really thought you were going to be like.”

Lee Roy himself played Dolly Levi at The Wick Theater, Boca Raton Florida Autumn 2015

Lee Roy himself played Dolly Levi at The Wick Theater, Boca Raton Florida Autumn 2015

She laughed and said, “Imagine what I thought when they said you were Carol Channing’s best friend!”  They had a big laugh about that and they seriously fell in love.

When the show got to Broadway, it didn’t run very long. Previews: March 01, 1978 (5 previews). Opening: March 05, 1978. Closing: July 09, 1978. Performances: 147. Theatre: Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

I asked Lee Roy how he ended up becoming THE director for Dolly. He said everybody was dead! Lucia had died. Gower was gone. The first production that Lee Roy directed was in Paris starring Nicole Croisille. sf-hello-dolly-lee-roy-reams-theater-photo-pic-d-20151105It was an English speaking production.

Lee Roy had directed a lot in college. Lee Roy earned a Master of Arts degree and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He had not directed anything as big as this production in Paris. This production was an all English cast except the lead, Nicole Croisille. She was a jazz singer but was also a dancer. She was very popular in Paris. She was wonderful.

She was like a blonde version of Chita Rivera. The Ephraim speeches were done brilliantly. She is a great musical comedy actress and understood American music. The French don’t really like musical theater. What they like is ballet, opera, revues. There is also the barrier of American humor. There were French translations for this production. One of the producers, who assumed he spoke wonderful French, translated literally. Many of the jokes translated literally did not work. Lee Roy does not speak or read French so he had no idea exactly what audiences were hearing. For those who understood English, it was a wonderful show. Flo Lacey was Mrs. Molloy. Michael DeVries was Cornelius and he was just wonderful. Cory English was Barnaby Tucker. This was in the early nineties. It was prior to Carol’s last Broadway revival. All of the names mentioned here in supporting transferred to that production. Lori Ann Mahl also played Minnie Fay. She came in to audition for Ermengarde. Lee Roy thought she would make a better Minnie Fay. She turned out to be terrific. Ronnie Crowfoot did the choreography for that company. He was the dance captain.

Jack Craig had passed on.

In addition to the Paris production, Lee Roy has directed Madeline Kahn in Theater OF the Stars in Atlanta. Madeline Kahn was absolutely brilliant. He did productions with Jo Anne Worley and Leslie Uggams, both at Theater UNDER The Stars in Houston. He directed Michelle Lee at the Kansas City Starlight. Michelle made it her own and sang it beautifully and Randy Graff at the MUNY in probably what was Dolly’s largest staging, at least under Lee Roy’s direction. He also directed Carol Channing’s last revival in 1994.

Lee Roy is a very “hands on director.”  He was very good friends with Michael Stewart who wrote the book for Dolly suggested by The Matchmaker. Having done the revivals of Dolly and 42nd Street, for which Michael also wrote the book, they got to know each other.

Michael Stewart

They came from the same kind of school of thought. The people who never get the credit in the theater are the book writers. Michael Stewart was brilliant.

He took that wonderful play by Thornton Wilder and those wonderful philosophies and he condensed them and put them into the sequences that were perfect, especially leading into the songs.

The dialogue went right into the songs and the actors are able to sustain the same feelings from the dialogue and emotionality of the scene. Lee Roy is assuming that Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart worked very closely together on Dolly.

Of course, Lee Roy was not there during the initial creative process. Jerry and Michael were also very good friends. Dolly is still a wonderful musical.

It is a classic. The reason the music is loved so much is that the story and the philosophies still work.

Thornton Wilder wrote about going back out into the human race, going out in life and trying to seek adventure, Dolly’s speech about money “the difference between a little money and a lot of money can ruin the world”…we are going through that right now. It is as timeless today as it was when it was written.

Carol Channing stars in the revival production of “Hello Dolly!” at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City in March 1978. Channing originated the role of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi in the Broadway musical in 1964. (AP Photo)

Because he was not with the original production, he does not know who invented what. Charles Lowe, Carol’s husband, wrote a lot of her club material and was very influential with Carol and what she did. Perhaps he had a hand in some of her portrayal. It is uncertain as to what Carol brought to the table in the original process. It is uncertain how much Gower contributed to the characterization of Carol as Dolly. Working with Gower, he was marvelous at staging a show. He was not necessarily an actor’s director. He shouldn’t have to be. The actor should know what they are doing.

In 42nd Street, the actors brought what they desired the characters to be to the table. Gower did not sit down with them. At the first rehearsal, Gower told Lee Roy that Billy Lawlor, Lee Roy’s character, was an over-the-hill juvenile.  “Every time a girl comes into the room, Billy wants to ‘make’ her.” Lee Roy questioned that approach. He thought, “Dick Powell? Ruby Keeler?”  When they had their break, Mike Stewart grabbed Lee Roy and said, “Don’t listen to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about! You ARE Billy Lawler. You’re Lee Roy Reams. You smile. You’re wonderful. You do it my way, he’ll never know the difference.” Lee Roy did and it led to a Tony nomination. Gower left him alone as he did with most actors.

Wanda Richert

He was focused mostly on Wanda Richert (Peggy Sawyer).

He had a great company of pros that knew what they were doing. They really didn’t need to be “directed”. “Turn Carole Cook on and you’ve got Carole Cook!”

Dolly has such a heart. It has such positive things to say about life. It’s about how you can’t let life just pass you by. Rejoin the human race before the parade passes by.

Start marching. Dolly compares his approach to directing Dolly like fitting someone for a costume. Sometimes a dress adjusted a certain way will look differently on a different body type. You have to make adjustments and you cannot ignore the creative process. At the same time, too, when you know something very well, it is your job to direct the people in the style. There is a blueprint, the way it was done before, and it is flawless. Gower was a master at creating scene changes and how one scene would lead into another. It was like cinematic. One scene would dissolve into another. A number would start, there would be dancing, the set would change, and you would be in a whole new arena. It was brilliant. He was the best stager Broadway  has ever had. Lee Roy thinks the best director/choreographer was probably Jerome Robbins. Gower’s direction was seamless in how he staged a show. It was like a movie, a genius. Nothing else has ever come close.

Again, Lee Roy uses that blueprint, but things happen along the way. Some actors/actresses may not be able to do something exactly as you want, but as they do something another way, things began to happen. When Lee Roy directed Carol’s last revival, So Long Dearie, there were staging concerns. That number has always been a “weighted” number because it comes after the spectacular title song.

Carol in ’64 So Long, Dearie dress

Hello, Dolly! is the best number ever staged.

Period.   It is hard after that to get the show back musically. Of course, you have the eating scene after that which is one of the best and funniest scenes ever written for a musical. Carol Channing was a genius in that scene. After It Only Takes a Moment, they wanted an eleven o’clock number for Carol because the show was constructed as a star vehicle. That happened out of town when Horace’s Penny in My Pocket was dropped and everything started changing direction and focus. They turned it into a star vehicle because Carol was overtaking the show, in a good way. They allowed that to happen.

So Long, Dearie is a good song but it is anticlimactic.

Lee Roy wanted to rethink the song with Carol. She carried around her large black notebook with every bit of Gower’s direction intact which was somewhat counterproductive with what Lee Roy wanted to do. He wanted her to rediscover the number and see what they could both bring to it. They discussed the number. He told her at that time, women couldn’t vote. Basically, Dolly is trying to make money any way she can so she can live because she doesn’t have a husband to support her. There were not a lot of options for women at that time. She is a “Jane of all trades”, doing what she can to make money. The one thing a woman had to her advantage was her sex. That was her secret weapon to manipulate men to make things happen. Lee Roy told her that in that number, that Vandergelder snaps, “I will never marry you Dolly Levi!”

And she responds by telling him that she doesn’t want to marry him and that she is out a there. “So, Long Dearie! I’m leaving you. You don’t know what you’re missing, but it’s good. Too bad, you can’t have it.” It’s a women’s lib number. She’s going to learn to dance, and drink, and smoke a cigarette. She’s going away from Yonkers. She is out of there.  Lee Roy told Carol that it had to have that triumph to it. Carol was deadset against anything she had not already done.  They took a long afternoon…just the two of them. He said, “Let’s start at the beginning and let’s try and create a few things as we go along.” Lee Roy restaged the number. It was still within Gower’s framework. Lee Roy actually had Carol dance and move a little more. Carol danced more in the ’95 revival than she did in the original in ’64 which was phenomenal at that time. She was seventy-four. He also got her back out on the ramp. That number was not performed on the ramp in ’64. She said, “You don’t go on the ramp after the Dolly number!” Lee Roy said, “It doesn’t say that in the script, Carol. This is her road to life.”  It starts when she is out on the ramp vowing to rejoin the human race. It gets her to the Harmonia Gardens. She owns the ramp. Now, she is taking that road and leaving Vandergelder to live her own life!

He had to get her back on that ramp. Begrudgingly, she finally agreed. She sheepishly started doing what he asked of her. Resisting him and fighting him every inch of the way. They finally got there and she started liking it. She started liking it a lot.

At five PM when they had to leave the rehearsal studio, she said, “We’ve got to do it again.” She kept wanted to do it again and again until they were thrown out of the studio. The next day he asked her not to tell anyone in the company what they had done. When she did it for the company, she got a standing ovation.

On the opening night, October 19th, 1995, Marge Champion was Lee Roy’s date. After So Long, Dearie, she turned to Lee Roy and said, “Gower is so happy tonight because he never had time to fix that number.

Lee Roy Reams and Marge Champion

It was put in the show late.” She told Lee Roy that he had fixed it.

There was not a huge difference from the 1978 revival in which Lee Roy played Cornelius Hackl and the 1995 revival in which he directed. Once again, they had the original sets and costumes. In 1995, Jonathan Bixby “improved upon” Freddy Wittop’s original designs.

Rosaria Sinisi, a disciple of Oliver Smith’s, was the scenic supervisor. They also went back and found the original Oliver Smith drawings. In 1964, the original palette of the Put on Your Sunday Clothes backdrops, for example had a lot more yellow in it. As the years went on, there tended to be more reds.

For ’95. they went back to the more subtler colors rather than the primary colors. The effect was brilliant. Lee Roy knew that now they were dealing with people’s memories of what the show was. It is a tough position to be in. In the Harmonia Gardens, Lee Roy said, “Rosaria, let’s decorate the staircase a little more. Let’s put lights down the rails and brass rods across the stairs.”

A Glitzier Entrance 1995

The original was just plain stairs with red carpet and a two cut out posts that flipped out and opened. They put jewels on it.

They did everything to decorate it. They put two rows of lights instead of one over the portal. They added lights to the side pieces. Rosaria didn’t want to do that. She said that wasn’t the way it had been done.

People would still say to Lee Roy, That’s not the way I remember it! When that staircase came out, it filled the entire stage! It was all gold and light up.” It didn’t! People tend to remember it in a different way from what really was. The same thing was happening with Carol and her hats. She said she was missing her entrance applause into the hat shop scene. Her hat and feathers had gotten so big that when she tried to make her entrance, the crossbar over the portal was stopping her. She was passing under it and it was brushing the feathers. It was distracting the audience. She said Gower loved big hats. Lee

Notice Carol’s smaller hat

Roy had a picture of the hat she originally wore.

It was a pyramid green hat with a small feather that went one way and a back feather that went another way.

Lee Roy believes what he brings to the production as a director is an understanding of how Gower conceived it and Michael Stewart’s intention with the book. It didn’t hurt with the 1995 revival that he had one of the most brilliant comediennes ever in show business who understood the development of the humor in the piece. Whenever he has directed the show, he has never ever asked any actress to even try to imitate anything that Carol ever did. The blueprint is there. In the eating scene, for example, it is like choreography. There are beats that you do like learning a song. The pan comes up, you hit the spoon, beat, “Horace Vandergelder, you go your way. I’ll go mine”, beat beat.

Channing and David Burns 1964

If you don’t do that big move so the audience sees the whole thing, you don’t get the laugh. You can be the greatest actress in the world and just say, “You go your way and I’ll go mine”, it won’t happen.

It is built in the way that Michael Stewart wrote it to get the laugh.

When Lee Roy worked with Madeline Kahn, she was a very introspective actress. Everything had to come from within. First day of rehearsal, she said,

Madeline Kahn

“You realize I’m not big like Carol. I’m little.” Lee Roy told Madeline that Ruth Gordon was smaller than her and she invented the role. Then she said she couldn’t wear a big hat. He showed her what a little hat would look like on her. Then, he showed her the effect a big hat would create.

He explained that it would frame her face and give her theatricality. He told her they were not doing a movie. She had to have certain things in place that would frame the character. Madeline IS bigger than life. She had to get over her fears and preconceived notions. She didn’t want to go out on the ramp the first time. She was scared to death. She said, “I feel like Miss America. Here she comes…”

He said, “Madeline, you are in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant.

The people in the audience are people sitting at tables in the restaurant. There’s Mr. Schwartz.

There’s Mrs. O’Reilly. There’s Mr. So and So. Dolly knows all these people. They know her. She is walking back into familiar territory. All the waiters are saying hello. Dolly is saying hello. She is not parading. ” She started getting there. Regarding “you go your way, I’ll go mine” , she said she didn’t do “bits.”

Lee Roy said, “It is not a bit, Madeline, it’s a piece of business if you want to label it. Let me put it to you this way, you’ve got on long white gloves.

You say, ‘you go your way and I’ll go mine’, and you take off your gloves. That takes away from doing a ‘bit’.”  She thought about it for awhile and she stared Lee Roy down and said, “OK, I’ll do it” and she did. At the end of the scene, of course, she would do the line again as she’s serving the food. He told her, “You’ve got the spoon in one hand and the serving fork in the other. Again, you say, ‘You go your way and I’ll go mine’ and you take them and you put them down.” She said, “ That’s cheap.” He said, “You got your f!@#ing motivation, didn’t you?” She burst out laughing and that was the end of it. It was a big time in Lee Roy’s life. Seeing Madeline Kahn become Dolly, learning everything…the choreography of the eating scene, everything. She never had to be directed on the Ephraim speeches. They were beautiful. Everyone expected Madeline to be a comic.

Madeline wasn’t. She was an actress who could be funny. She wasn’t like Jo Anne Worley or Carol Channing. She brought a whole different aspect to it and as they went through the show, it was wonderful to be able to give her this power to play Dolly.

The night before she opened was the first time she heard the full score with an orchestra. The next afternoon, she had one dress rehearsal on stage with props and the orchestra, and she opened that night. It was incredible and she didn’t miss a beat.

The kid playing Ambrose Kemper walked out on stage and froze. She said, “Don’t say a word, Mr. Kemper! I know what you’re about to say!”  She read his lines and hers without missing a beat. She was that kind of an actress.

She was totally focused.

When she went to the MUNY in St Louis, they did not pay to bring Lee Roy in. Tony Parise  put that production together. She called Lee Roy the day after she opened and said, “Everything you told me to do got a laugh. I’ve never had this kind of confidence my entire career. I’m very insecure. I stew about everything. I drive directors crazy. I never had power on stage prior to this.” She was great.

Sometimes, Lee Roy just wanted to say, “Shut up, Madeline, and do it!” You give her confidence and she returns it tenfold in a performance. It was something else. It was brilliant. Everyone who saw Madeline play that performance saw a great performance.

Later on, she was doing The Sisters Rosensweig, and Carol Channing and Lee Roy went to see the show together. Afterward, they went backstage. Madeline ran up to Lee Roy and grabbed him and kissed him and said, “You know? I never would have been able to do this play if I had not worked with you last summer on Dolly.” She and Daniel J. Sullivan, the director, did not see eye to eye, but she didn’t let it get in her way. When she put on that Chanel suit, she said to herself, “ Listen to what Lee Roy said. Take the stage. I’m Dolly on the ramp. I owe you this performance from working with you last summer.” Lee Roy told her that she would win the Tony for best actress. He advised her not to let Jane Alexander put her in the featured actress category. The night of the Tony Awards, she called Lee Roy at midnight. She said, “It’s mine but I called my mother first!”

John Schuck

Madeline, as Dolly, was totally different from Carol Channing. It was the same design. Madeline’s personality came into it. John Schuck, as Horace Vandergelder, and Madeline played well off of each other and they did the eating scene as perfectly as it was ever done. He was a great Horace. Lee Roy says he has always had wonderful Horaces.  Lewis J. Stadlen was brilliant opposite Leslie Uggams and Randy Graff. It was interesting watching Randy dealing with having to play in one. She is a great actress. It is hard to face front and break that fourth wall. For Randy, it had to have a purpose. Lee Roy says it was fun watching Randy develop in that part. When Randy did it at the MUNY, they had the biggest staircase since Gone With the Wind!

Randy Graff

It was huge. It was difficult for her to get down those stairs because she was dealing with the dress and she had to hold on. It also took very long to walk down. Lee Roy said the only way to fix it was to put the boys on the staircase to help her down. It worked!  The boys ran up to meet her one after another. Michele Lee wanted to do the same thing in Kansas City. They couldn’t do that because of the sightlines. The stairs were too far upstage and with them being on the staircase, you couldn’t see Michele’s entrance. Because of the sightlines, they would have blocked her as she made her entrance. Lee Roy and Michele fought over this. He told her she had to go all the way front in order for the audience to see her. They couldn’t see her if she was too far upstage and they didn’t have enough lights and the spotlight couldn’t reach her. The spotlight would have hit the proscenium if she were too far upstage. It would have defused her entrance. It worked brilliantly at the MUNY so he owes that to Michele! Everybody does their own thing and a lot of time in stock when you have ten days, you don’t have a lot of time. He has told every actress he has directed as Dolly that if they want to get the most out of this, they have to show up at the first rehearsal completely off book. If they are not off book, they will never get through it. It’s too much dialogue. It’s too much to learn. There is so much business he has to give them.

Michele Lee

It’s like a little Swiss clock. If you want to get the most value, you’ve got to know your lines. Some did abd some didn’t. They all came in trying. Some are better at it than others. Madeline was off book first day of rehearsal.


There will be more revivals, Lee Roy believes. Unfortunately, he believes that the women who would be brilliant in it would not be hired by the producers. They are only looking for name value. He thinks Bernadette Peters would make a great Dolly Levi. Obviously, Patti LuPone. Tyne Daly. There are a lot of actresses who don’t have the name value but would be great Dollys. Debra Monk comes readily to mind. Ruth Williamson would be a wonderful Dolly. (Check out my chapter on her). There are a lot of actresses out there who are just perfect for this.

Leslie Uggams was a wonderful Dolly in Houston. They put Love, Look in my Windowback in the show for Leslie. Leslie was a dream to direct. She did what she was asked to do.

The only other actress who worked with who was totally like that was Chita Rivera. Leslie just did exactly what she was asked and sang it brilliantly.

When they put Love, Look in My Window, Jerry Herman, who came down because Lee Roy and Leslie were working together, was very hands on with that production. Love, Look in my Window sort of spoils Before The Parade Passes By. They agreed that Leslie would sing part of it, leading into Dolly’s speech to Ephraim, which would then lead into Parade.

Leslie and Randy Slovacek

Jerry said no. Window would have to have the big ending. “Come in and stay awhile.” Leslie and Lee Roy looked at each other questioning if that was right. Jerry was there and they were going to do what Jerry wanted.

The night that the show opened, they did it Jerry’s way. He said it would hold. Jerry said, Just let Leslie sing it.” He suggested she stand in one place. Lee Roy moved her a little for the Ephraim speech. She stood and sang that song on opening night and got a standing ovation.

Lee Roy then thought, “Oh, God! What is going to happen with Before The Parade Passes By? Leslie has just sung the s!@# out of Window.” At the end of Parade, ANOTHER STANDING OVATION! Lee Roy looked at Jerry and said, “I guess you really know what you’re doing.”  Jerry said, “That’s the way it should have always been done.”  They got a great review. Theater Under the Stars producer came back the next night and read the review to the audience. He said, “For the first time in decades, we got a good review.”

Everett Evans in the Houston Chronicle wrote, “Thanks to Leslie Uggams’ lustrous singing and the delicious oomph of her maiden voyage in the famous title role; thanks to Lewis J. Stadlen delivering the funniest Horace Vandergelder since David Burns originated the role; thanks to golden-voiced romantic leads Kevin Earley and Glory Crampton; thanks to astute recreation of Gower Champion’s inspired direction and choreography; and as always, thanks to Jerry Herman’s irresistible score and Michael Stewart’s expertly crafted book — this oft-seen warhorse once again is still glowing, still crowing, still going strong.”

Lee Roy was lucky to have been able to work hand in hand with members of the original creative team. It’s a very personal show to Lee Roy because Lucia Victor taught him the show. He worked with Gower on 42nd Street. He knows what goes into this show. He loves the fact that everyone says the only way to do a revival is to totally reinvent it where you have to rethink it and recast it.

If a recipe makes the greatest cake that you’ve ever eaten in your whole life, why would you necessarily want to change the ingredients? You may want to make more of it or you may want to decorate it differently or you may want to add a little something extra. However, you can’t just give up the recipe. It works too well. What happens is the “party” and the people who are at that party, the actors, make it fresh. No one is ever going to be Carol Channing. Lee Roy doesn’t even ask of that. They all bring their own special “it” to the proceedings. The Hello, Dolly number choreographically, no matter who choreographs it, is never going to be better than Gower Champion’s choreography.

Jay Garner (Horace), Carol, Florence Lacy

When Lee Roy directed the ’95 revival, everything unfolded as he envisioned it and he would not change a thing. He is very meticulous when he directs. He did make a few changes. At the end of Dancing, it ends with Barnaby and Minnie bowing and Minnie dancing around Dolly, she (Minnie) goes backwards, blows a kiss and she’s gone. That was not satisfying enough for Lee Roy.

He went back to The Matchmaker. What Lee Roy did was have everyone on, principal wise. Cornelius dances on with Dolly. Barnaby dances on with Mrs. Molloy and they all dance on together. Dolly and Cornelius are dancing and he bows and thanks Dolly and she sees Mrs. Molloy and she comes out and dances off with Cornelius. Barnaby is standing there and Minnie Fay comes on and dances around him. He grabs Minnie Fay and they go off together as a couple. Dolly says goodbye and she realizes that everyone is together and she is alone. She has no one in her life. She has just made these matches for everyone but herself. “Ephraim, Let me go. It’s been long enough.”  Lee Roy felt that those changes made the scene more powerful. When you work with actors, they also find things to do. Lee Roy does give them some freedom to discover. At the same time, you still have to build the road.

copyright: Margot Feiden Gallery

Lee Roy went into the ’95 revival as a NEW production. Carol fought Lee Roy very hard in terms of looking at the show through new eyes. She spent so much time trying to remember. One day, thank God, she put down her black “bible” and was willing to start trusting Lee Roy.

Hello, Dolly! is very dear to Lee Roy’s heart. Carol Channing is responsible for a lot of his career, as is Jerry Herman. One of the greatest joys of Lee Roy’s career is doing Jerry’s repertoire. Jerry considers Lee Roy his favorite male singer. That is something Lee Roy is very proud of. Jule Styne said Jerry Herman is the Irving Berlin of his day. Some of the most satisfying moments of Lee Roy’s life have been with Jerry Herman.

“Jerry Herman is a genius and I love him to death.” Carol Channing and Charles Lowe are also responsible for so many of Lee Roy’s work habits. They taught him so much about the business. For the most part, they had a lot of fun. They had a lot of laughs, like a family. Also like a family, they’ve had their ups and their downs. The ups were certainly better than the downs ever were. Lee Roy is grateful for having that experience. Charles Lowe was a brilliant man. Every morning, as the clock struck nine AM, Charles had breakfast in his hotel room. He had a list of things to do: check on the agents, get the publicity going, etc. When they played a town, there was no way not to know that Carol Channing was playing that town. She was on the weather report, she was on all the local programs. She was on the morning, midday, six PM, AND then rushing to the theater to do a show. It was incredible. Lee Roy has never seen anyone work like that. She did what a star should be doing. It was a great lesson in how to do it!

Lee Roy, Carol, Jerry, Bill Bateman

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