As popular music is exploding in 1964, with acts like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, musical theater still holds its tight grip on the overall population. 1964’s #1 selling album? The original soundtrack to Hello, Dolly!, was released in 1964 as this blockbuster show won 10 Tony Awards. This version features the unique and unusual Carol Channing as Dolly, with other featured leads including David Burns, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Eileen Brennan, who I always associated as the grumpy Captain in “Private Benjamin”. She actually has a very pure voice, on the high end, cast as Irene.
This is a show I have seen in full at least once, and in part, countless times. As a parent who was immersed in the world of musical theater, this show takes me back to the classic format of a Broadway musical, with the all-knowing “Prologue”, often known as an overture. Several songs are sung by various supporting cast and leads, with the powerhouse number featuring the star and the ensemble to close the first act. In this case, it is “Before the Parade Passes By”, and like many of these, it starts slow with just the lead, gaining volume and power until the entire ensemble closes the curtains for intermission.
In many of these shows, the story turns with the featured song of the show, in this case, the highly memorable “Hello, Dolly!” which appears early in the second act, featuring Channing and the full ensemble. The story then flows through the climax of the show, the resolution of the plot and several more tracks, before the bombastic show finale, aptly named “Finale” where the producer, director and cast aspire to leave the audience wowed by the lush sounds, the vivid colors, the highly complex coordinated choreography, and one last concluding number that builds with key changes and increases in tempo and intensity. I have seen musicals like “Hello, Dolly!” at every level from middle school to Broadway, and each has left an impact, and in many cases, stunned me with the overwhelming multi-sensory caliber of the performance.
It does surprise me that this soundtrack outsold all of the breaking musical sensations of 1964, but that being said, it is quite the show and representative of the spectacular musicals that have graced our theaters for over a hundred years now. We can only hope and pray that our theaters reopen soon; this art form is a meaningful and integral part of our culture, our society, and an excellent venue for those young and old who seek a stage, a spotlight, and an audience.