In celebration of her 93rd birthday and the 50th anniversary of the classic musical Hello, Dolly!, three-time Tony Award winner Carol Channing returned to the New York stage on Monday, January 20, for an evening at The Town Hall. The spry Channing, dressed in her trademark all-white pantsuit, was joined by Obie-winning performance artist Justin Vivian Bond, who moderated an hour-long discussion with the Broadway legend. The show was first produced last summer as part of Daniel Nardicio's "Icon Series" on Fire Island.
Still sharp and in possession of a wry sense of humor, Channing brought the house down frequently with her answer to questions from Bond and various fans on videotape. When asked "Why didn't you and Mary Martin ever make it to Broadway in Legends!?" the quick-witted Channing responded, "It was a terrible show," before taking a pregnant pause and mumbling, "That was a bitch remark," much to the delight of the packed house. When a fan wanted to know why one can eat jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never jam today — a nod to Channing's famous role in a television version of Alice in Wonderland — the legend stared blankly at Bond and answered with a simple "How does he remember that?"
The evening's biggest thrill came toward the very end, when Channing, with the gravitas of an actor still in her prime, delivered the big "Ephraim, let me go" monologue from Hello, Dolly! and launched into the chorus of the Jerry Herman musical's title song. It was a fitting finish from a legend who still knows how to please her audience.