Made by Two Dolly’s: Hello, Dolly! The Musical
It so happens that more often than not, a person is so widely identified as the ‘owner’ of a role that you can’t just see anyone else taking it up. This is not the case in Hello, Dolly the musical. The titular character Dolly Levi was played by Bette Midler and alternate Donna Murphy, a 5 time Tony award nominee. This pairing was so successful that it almost made Hello Dolly challenge Hamilton for pole position on account of number of tickets sold. Not something to be taken lightly.
The alternate lead but quite aptly talented Donna Murphy started out on a Tuesday night in the 8th week of musicals. It was later reported by the Shubert Organisation that a new record had been set by the show’s revival Even though it did not beat Hamilton to first place, it did beat WICKED and The Lion King to take second with $2.3 million.
In a classic case of audience versus critics, Donna found herself loved by one and looked down on by the other. I’m sure you can take a guess as to who did what. She had a point to prove to those who would have loved to see Bette Midler in her stead and she was successful in establishing the same, much to the satisfaction of doubters.
Even though it did not outsell Hamilton, Hello Dolly got 1000 more audience members than the aforementioned, falling short because of Hamilton’s sale of the more premium tickets compared to Hello Dolly, with Hamilton placing itself more in a position of exclusivity.
The show came to an end in August and Bette Midler returned for the final stretch, taking over from Bernadette Peters who had stepped into the role when she departed. Midler said that she was excited to re-experience one of the greatest experiences of her life, and to acknowledge Bernadette for holding down the fort when she was away. She desribed Dolly Levi as one of the most joyful characters in Broadway history, seeing herself and Bernadette Peters as ‘lucky’ to play the character.
Peters on the other hand was grateful to Bette as she suggested her for the role. David Hyde was rearing to get back on the stage with Bette, calling her a crazy woman.
The production by Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman for Hello, Dolly!, broke the record for best first day of ticket sales in Broadway history, the box office record at the Shubert Theatre twelve times, and shattered The Shubert Organization’s all-time-record ten times.