Earlier this week I mentioned Thornton Wilder.
His play "The Matchmaker" which was then turned into the musical "Hello Dolly!" debuted on Broadway on this date, forty nine years ago: February 16, in 1964, with Carol Channing as Dolly Levi.
No, I was NOT there for the opening night. I was in thrid grade and while it might have been physically possible for me to have been in Manhattan that evening, we were living in San Diego at the time. So, no, I was not there. But I have good memories of "Hello Dolly!" and of Carol Channing. Because I have had the joy of seeing Miss Channing perform Dolly twice, and quite a number of years apart.
She is one of two stage performers whom I have had the pleasure to watch, who can hold the entire audience in the palm of the hand, spellbound. What a treat! (Sometime, ask me who the other one was).
Many people call it her signature role and it is, but then again, they may be forgetting Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds", among other fantastic roles Miss Channing has performed.
The "Hello Dolly!" music is great but my favorite moment in the musical is a non-musical one, set at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, when Carol as Dolly is into the monologue that goes along with carving up the chicken that has been ordered for dinner. There is nothing like it on stage, in any play that I know of. Who could guess that the everyday action of carving a bird could be, in the hands of a great actress, such a mesmerizing delight? You simply cannot take your eyes away.
Among the witty lines we hear this exchange:
Dolly: Here, let me cut your wings!
Horace: I don't want my wings cut!
Dolly: No man does, Horace, no man does.
I would love to know more. Is the scene as she played it what was written, or did she modify and hone and perfect it over time? I suppose a combination thereof. Timing is everything, and Miss Channing's is perfection. She can do the subtle double take like no one else. And those eyes!
As the scene progresses, Horace Vandergelder is putty in her hands--as are we all. The art of living takes both playing the scene as it is written, and modifying and honing and perfecting it over time. Would that we all could do so in such a way that is both captivating and joyful, the way Carol Channing does.
I would submit that the people we enjoy being with do exactly that.
Hooray for them all! And let's try to be like them...Before the Parade Passes By!