On January 16. 1964, the Jerry Herman musical “Hello, Dolly!” had its World Premiere on Broadway starring the inimitable Carol Channing.
On January 15, 2019, nearly 55 years to the day, Carol Channing passed away at her home in Palm Springs. She was 97.
Tributes poured in for Carol, including many from the cast of the Broadway touring production of “Hello, Dolly!” starring another Broadway legend, Betty Buckley, that comes to Segerstrom Center January 22-27.
Buckley and the cast dedicated their January 15 performance in San Diego to Carol’s memory, and Buckley made a heartfelt curtain speech about Carol’s impact on Broadway and her mark on “Hello, Dolly!” Broadway theaters dimmed their lights on January 16 as a tribute to Carol Channing.
I spoke to Jess LeProtto, the actor portraying Barnaby Tucker in “Hello, Dolly!” about how the cast was reacting to Carol Channing’s passing, but that was on Tuesday prior to the first San Diego performance, and he said they had not had their company meeting yet but agreed that “we need to give Carol her love and sendoff the way she deserved.”
LeProtto, who was in the ensemble cast of “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway with Bette Midler in the role of Dolly, said he is enjoying his first Broadway tour, although he did tour eight years ago as a member of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“We did a month and a half of one-nighters, but this time we get at least a week in each city. After Costa Mesa we have three weeks in L.A. and a month in San Francisco,” said LeProtto, who noted that he did not expect it to be raining in sunny Southern California. “Right now it’s snowing in New York, so I’ll take 60 and raining over 30 and snowing.”
The tour started last fall, so I wondered about the audience reaction to a show that despite being created more than five decades ago seems to be as popular as ever.
“The show stands the test of time,” confirmed LeProtto. “It speaks for itself. It is unapologetic as far as its love and confidence, and it brings such a purity to the stage. However young or old, audiences can escape whatever they are doing. It was written more than 50 years ago, but it is still fresh and new and alive.”
LeProtto also reminded me of the exquisite Jerry Herman score, which is full of recognizable songs.
“The score is so great, it’s bouncy and buoyant, and very optimistic,” noted LeProtto. “Jerry Herman is a force of nature. What he brings to musical theater—he does it in a way that is affectionate, he gets your ears so addicted to the melody. It’s very lovely to sing and lovely to hear.”
“This show has all the elements of how to do a proper musical,” added LeProtto. “From the cast to the staging to the technical and visual elements, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ is bringing back color and energy and life. It’s elegant glamour, and I get to be a witness to it.”
For tickets to “Hello, Dolly!” visit SCFTA.org or call (714) 556-2787.