Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!(Photo from Jerry Herman: The Lyrics)
Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!
(Photo from Jerry Herman: The Lyrics)
Forty years ago today, a show opened that made Walter Kerr exclaim in the next day's Herald-Tribune, "Don't bother holding onto your hats, because you won't be needing them. You'd only be throwing them in the air anyway." He added, "Hello, Dolly! is a musical comedy dream." Other reviewers weighed in with "the best musical of the season" (Taubman, Times), "a pot-walloping hit" (McClain, Journal-American), "a smash (Nadel, World-Telegram & Sun), "big, bouncing and handsome" (Watts, Post), and "the most exciting numbers I have seen since Jerome Robbins staged West Side Story" (Chapman, News).

Hello, Dolly! was off and running, easily the hottest ticket in town. It eventually won more Tonys than any other show had in that award's history and became Broadway's longest-running musical -- eclipsing My Fair Lady, which many thought would never be overtaken. Of course, a success like that doesn't happen without a lot of work and talent. Some came from star Carol Channing, some from director-choreographer Gower Champion, and some from librettist Michael Stewart. But much of it also came from Jerry Herman's score, which, via RCA Victor, became 1964's best-selling album for months to come. (And don't forget, this was precisely the same time that the Beatles were making their American debut.)

Again, none of this came easy or without trial and error. As a way of showing just that, Herman -- through Ken Bloom, his collaborator on Jerry Herman: The Lyrics -- has released some of his worksheets from those days in 1962 and 1963 when he was toiling on what was then called Dolly: A Damned Exasperating Woman. How fascinating to see some of his early lyrics that didn't make the final cut.

In Dolly's first number, "I Put My Hand In," the lady originally sang, "There's a girl who weighs half a ton / Who's entrusted herself to my care / I laced her corsets till her shape was redesigned / Her wedding gown is size 10 in front / and 42 behind." At one point in the show's gestation, Dolly had a reprise in which she addressed her plans to land Vandergelder: "When a lady of grace and charm / Loves a grouch with the growl of a bear / I'd have them mixed and matched as quick as one-two-three / And so I swear what I've done for half the Bronx I'll do for me / I'll put my hand in there / And I'll outdistance and out-wit him / He will never know what hit him / I'll outclass and I'll outguess him / I'll finagle and finesse him / I will see the tiger smitten / And I'll drag him home a kitten / Batten down the doors / Horace, you'll get yours when / I put my hand in there."

"It Only Takes a Moment" was the song that Herman thought would be a pop hit, if any song were to step out of the score. That didn't quite happen, partly because the song that preceded it in the show -- the title tune -- took on a totally unexpected, whirlwind life of its own. Herman's worksheet shows that the first four lines of the song remain the same (Cornelius sings, "It only takes a moment / For your eyes to meet and then / Your heart knows in a moment / You will never be alone again"). But where we're now accustomed to hearing, "I held her for an instant / But my arms felt sure and strong," Herman originally had "I heard her say 'Good morning' / And it sounded like a song."

That was originally followed by a completely different section that was dropped not only lyrically, but musically, too. "I've heard it said that love must grow / That to be sure you must be slow / I saw you smile and now I know / I'll listen to just my heart / That smile made me trust my heart." And while the melody then returned to the main section, it contained lyrics that never made it to the St. James: "For it only takes a moment / When the lips you've waited for / Touch your lips for a moment / But you know they'll touch forevermore." The rest of the song plays out as we know it. (While all that emphasis on lips may sound like a bit much, don't forget that Cornelius and Barnaby had promised themselves, "And we won't come home until we kissed a girl!")

Carol Channing sings "So Long, Dearie"(in a costume cut out of town)(Photo © Friedman-Abeles)
Carol Channing sings "So Long, Dearie"
(in a costume cut out of town)
(Photo © Friedman-Abeles)
"Dancing" didn't originally start with Dolly stating, "Put your hand on her waist and stand / With her right in your left hand," but with "Toe and heel and then heel and toe / Then over and glide, like so." Later, Herman reversed the order so that Dolly sang, "Heel and toe, and then toe and heel / You'll see how alive you'll feel." Some of the song's excised lyrics showed up some years ago when a Dolly! demo tape was commercially released on the "Broadway First Take" label, but in case you missed that disc, here you go: "When the world's in a minor key / And life is a trifle blah / Just find any Alice or Annie / And take her dancing / Don't just sit and say 'C'est la vie' / Say, 'Play me that Oom-pa-pa!' / Get off of your fanny and / Keep on dancing." The conclusion of that version: "Find a partner and follow me / And sway to your fav'rite song / As long as you're dancing the world seems to dance along."

And here are some lyrics that didn't make the demo: "If you don't know the lyric, hum / Just mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm the tune / Whatever the trouble is / You'll never mind it dancing / If you start out to pick a plum / And wind up with just a prune / Whatever you're looking for / You're sure to find it dancing / Glide and step with pep and zest / Keep those ankles busy / Life is at its very best / When you're slightly dizzy / So remember that 'Da-da-dum!' / And sing it out loud and strong / As long as you're dancing, the world seems to dance along."

All of the above involved Dolly's plans for Cornelius -- but what did she originally have in mind for Barnaby? After she sang, "Turn around and turn around then all around the floor," Barnaby responded, "I used to think to dance was goody-gooding." Now, gentle readers, I don't blame you if you raise an eyebrow at that, for I too have never heard of a practice known as "Goody-gooding." But if you know The Matchmaker, you'll be nodding because you'll have guessed that Herman needed a rhyme to make Barnaby's big point: "Now I wonder why I never thought of this before / Hey, Cornelius, this is really 'pudding.'" For the two guys had arranged in advance that if they happened to get into a real adventure, one would let the other know it was happening by using the code word "pudding."

Just a reminder that Jerry Herman first had to say, "So Long, Dearie!" to a lot of material in order to come up with a Hello, Dolly!.

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@aol.com]