The production of Hello, Dolly! starring Pearl Bailey opened on November 12, 1967. 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.
According to Ernestine Jackson. Bailey was notorious for missing shows. It made the columns that Merrick bought her a diamond bracelet just saying “and you’ll watch your attendance.” So, we don’t know when she formally left and Thelma/Bibi started sharing. Likely, Pearl had no smash closing on a Saturday night-but missed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then it was acknowledged that Merrick was looking for Dolly number six.
Cab’s daughter Chris Calloway was also in this production. Another wonderful talent gone too soon.