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Find comfort in iconic ‘Hello, Dolly!’

Civic Theatre brings musical to Arts United Center stage

Amy Ross plays the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi in the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s production of "Hello, Dolly!"

Leslie Beauchamp

Whatzup Features Writer

Published February 8, 2023

Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway in January 1964 while our country was still grieving from President John Kennedy’s assassination and nervous about the worsening situation in Vietnam. The Beatles invasion had just begun, and there was a youthful passion for change and rock n’ roll! On the small screen, TV fare included The Flintstones, My Three Sons, Dr. Kildare, and Perry Mason

David Merrick, a gifted theatrical producer, could sense the time was right to provide the comfort and nostalgia of a good old-fashioned Broadway musical. He just happened to be in possession of a successful theatrical property that he felt was crying out to be set to music. He wanted it to serve as a star vehicle for Ethel Merman, and it had an 1890s flavor that would offer much-needed diversion from current events. Merrick assembled a team of future Broadway legends — Gower Champion, Michael Stewart, and Jerry Herman — to give music and new life to Thornton Wilder’s highly successful play, The Matchmaker. The title of this new musical began as Dolly! A Damned Exasperating Woman, changed to Call on Dolly, and finally settled at Hello, Dolly!

Although Merman was Merrick’s first choice to play Dolly Gallagher Levi, she declined because she was recovering from her long run as Mama Rose in Gypsy. She accepted the role many years later, in 1970, and as the seventh actress to play the scheming matchmaker, Merman said farewell to Broadway. And so, it is Carol Channing, of course, in the defining role of her career, having played Dolly Levi more than 5,000 times, whose luminosity, hilarity, and personality is credited for the success and longevity of the show. 

As we may find ourselves in a time of uncertainty as we slowly continue to resume our lives after the disruption of COVID, I hope you find comfort in this good old-fashioned musical. One of the many things I love about this show is that it is a loud and brassy call to action! Instead of being paralyzed by loss or uncertainty or fear, it urges each of us to take a chance and leap into the unknown, to go out and find love, to choose adventure, to be brave in the face of grief “before the parade passes by.” 

It has been a true pleasure working with each and every artist in this show. Their joy throughout the rehearsal process has been an infectious delight, and I am in awe of the talent we are blessed with within our city.

Thank you for joining us and for choosing to go on this adventure with us. “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong!”

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