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Theatre / Hello, Dolly!

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Sullivan: Where to, Dolly?
Dolly Levi: Yonkers, New York, to handle a highly personal matter for Mr. Horace Vandergelder, the well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire.
Sullivan: Gonna marry him yourself, Dolly?
Dolly Levi: Why, Mr. Sullivan, what ever put such a preposterous idea into my head, your head!

This famous 1964 musical, adapted by Jerry Herman (music) and Michael Stewart (book) from a Thornton Wilder play, The Matchmaker (itself based on an Austrian play, Einen Jux will er sich machen, which was in turn based on an earlier English play, A Day Well-spent), tells the tale of matchmaker and zany manipulator Dolly Levi (originally played by Carol Channing on Broadway). It's the turn of the 20th century in New York City, and after years of making matches for others she's out to make one for herself with the above-mentioned merchant Horace Vandergelder. In the process of doing so, she helps three other couples get together.

The 1969 film version was directed by none other than Gene Kelly and starred Barbra Streisand as Dolly and Walter Matthau as Horace. Modern audiences, however, will probably recognize footage from the movie due to its use in the Pixar film Wall E.

The movie is notable for being the first major motion picture to see release on the VHS format.

Hello, Dolly! provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Ernestina Money, Dolly’s friend who accompanies Horace to the Harmonia Gardens for about an hour or two until Dolly makes her big entrance. It’s also implied that she ends up with Rudolph, the headwaiter.
  • Adaptation Deviation: In The Matchmaker, Dolly's comment about the wallpaper in Vandergelder's front room is just a throwaway remark to clue the audience in to her designs on Vandergelder; Hello, Dolly! turns it into a Chekhov's Gag.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: When Vandergelder gets angry enough at Dolly to Full-Name Ultimatum her, he uses her maiden name, Dolly Gallagher. In The Matchmaker, Dolly and Vandergelder were old friends who'd known each other for years before either was married the first time, but none of the refences to that aspect of their backstory made it into the musical.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Ernestina Money, the fictional heiress Dolly invents to decoy Vandergelder, was named Ernestina Simple in The Matchmaker. The musical is a touch more cynical about what qualities Vandergelder finds most attractive in a woman.
    • The film version changes her name back to Simple.
  • Adapted Out: Several supporting characters from The Matchmaker, including two more of Vandergelder's employees, the lady who Ermengarde was supposed to go and stay with to get her away from Ambrose, a cab driver, and a barber.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Dolly Levi is an interesting case, as she is played by Barbra Streisand in the film, and the character in the play is presumably Irish-American (her maiden name is Gallagher) and intermarried, but in both cases speaks with a "Yiddish" rhythm and is a good fit for the stereotypical matchmaker of Jewish humor (compare her with Yente of Fiddler on the Roof).
  • Anti-Hero: Dolly, she is a good, friendly, warm hearted woman, and her favorite hobby/career and intentions are to help others find love and happiness. In fact a part of her plan is helping pretty much the entire cast finding real love instead of arranged marriages, including herself. How she accomplishes this however, is through multiple lies and deciet.
  • Audience Monologue: The stage musical contains several, mainly holdovers from The Matchmaker, where they were used even more extensively. For the most part, they were excised from the movie version.
  • Black Widow: Dolly paints Irene Molloy as one of these to plant doubts in Horace's head.
  • Brick Joke: Near the beginning, Dolly remarks to her late husband that she thinks Vandergelder's front room would look better in blue wallpaper. In the final scene, one of the signs that Dolly and Vandergelder really are a good match is Vandergelder independently deciding to have the room repapered in blue.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Horace spends most of the second act getting increasingly fed up with Dolly's shenanigans until he explodes and tells her he wouldn't marry her in a million years, and she bids him "So Long, Dearie". Cut to the next morning, and Horace is grumbling to himself about how annoying Dolly is in a way that makes it clear he misses her, and when she shows up again he proposes to her first chance he gets.
  • Catchphrase: Barnaby's "Holy cabooses!"
  • Chewbacca Defense: When the entire cast ends up in court for being disorderly, Dolly gives a speech for the defense which mainly consists of flattering the judge and throwing in a bit of gratuitous Latin.
  • Closet Shuffle: Cornelius and Barnaby hide from Vandergelder in Irene Molloy's hat shop, not knowing that that's his destination. When they realize he's coming in, Cornelius hides in a closet and Barnaby hides under a table.
  • Control Freak: Dolly, by her own admission.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Horace Vandergelder is a Self-Made Man who believes the only way to make a living is to "sell things people need," and Ambrose is a painter, something he finds frivolous and useless. Naturally, Ermengarde wants to marry Ambrose.
  • "Days of the Week" Song: "Put On Your Sunday Clothes".
  • Determinator: Dolly Levi is going to marry Horace Vandergelder and nothing is going to stop her!
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "So Long, Dearie", which happens at the end of the penultimate scene, marks a major emotional turning point (Vandergelder realizing that he actually would miss Dolly if she left), and is the last number in the show that isn't a reprise.
  • Epic Rocking: "Hello, Dolly!" is a unique example: it's a medium-slow number with simple music, repetitive lyrics, and basic choreography. And yet, through pure charm, it stops the show every time. Also the last jazz song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, when it was full of The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five.
  • Everything Has Rhythm: the opening.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Not counting the distant epilogue, the story takes place in little more than a day.
  • Final Love Duet:
    • "It Only Takes a Moment" for Cornelius and Irene. Cornelius begins it as a solo, then Irene joins in, signalling that she reciprocates his feelings.
    • When Dolly and Horace finally get together at the end, they do a reprise of the title song as a love duet.
  • The Gay '90s
  • Gibberish of Love: When Cornelius and Barnaby take shelter in Irene Molloy's hat shop, they rehearse their excuse while they wait for her to come out of the back room: they're two young men about town looking for some hats to buy for their ladies. Then Cornelius sees Irene, and it comes out as "we're two ladies about town looking for some hats to Molloy".
  • Give Me a Sign: Dolly asks her late husband for a sign that he approves of her marrying Vandergelder.
  • Going to See the Elephant: Cornelius and Barnaby take advantage of their overbearing boss going on an overnight trip to give themselves the day off and go to New York City to see what wonders it has. Barnaby specifically wants to see the stuffed whale in Barnum's museum.
  • Gold Digger: Dolly is a strangely altruistic version. She outright admits she wants to marry Horace for his money. She does want to enjoy the perks of wealth but she also hopes to spread the wealth around.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: Dolly's arrival at the restaurant.
    Stage direction: Music up as every eye goes to the head of the stairs, the portières move and Dolly steps through, handsomely gowned, red hair done up magnificently on top of her head. She descends stairs as Waiters, et al. await her first words.
  • Hypocrite: Right after denying his niece the choice to marry who she wants, Horace Vandergelde intends to head into town to propose to a lady of his own choosing.
  • "I Am" Song: In "I Put My Hand In", Dolly describes how her vocation is meddling in the lives and especially the romantic pursuits of the people she knows.
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze: When Minnie finds Cornelius hiding in the closet, Dolly is able to reassure Vandergelder that there isn't actually someone there. But when a tremendous sneeze comes from inside the closet, she has to bow to the inevitable and admit that there is one.
  • "I Want" Song:
    • In "Ribbons Down My Back" Irene sings about how she wants to be paid some romantic attention.
    • In "Before the Parade Passes By" Dolly sings about how she wants to be part of life again, and not just standing on the sidelines helping people as they go past.
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: The title song slows the final chorus down. Twice.
  • Long Runner:
    • The original production ran for 2844 performances and was briefly the longest running Broadway musical ever.
    • Likewise, Carol Channing's performance in the lead role. She claims to have played the role over 5000 times, having created the role in the original production and performing in revivals and tours for the next thirty years.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "So Long, Dearie" — Dolly launches into the song halfway through a spoken sentence, with no instrumental lead-in.
  • Marry for Love: What Irene wants. Also, despite having Gold Digger intentions, Dolly asks Horace if he would love her as an equal.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "It Takes a Woman," "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," "It Only Takes a Moment."
  • Meaningful Echo: When Irene and Minnie catch sight of Cornelius and Barnaby offstage and decide to try flirting with them, Irene says, "Minnie, we'll get an adventure out of this yet!" A moment later, Cornelius and Barnaby enter, and Cornelius's entry line is, "We'll get an adventure out of this yet, Barnaby!"
  • Misogyny Song: To explain why he's remarrying, Vandergelder sings about how "It Takes a Woman" to do all the nasty tedious chores that make a man's homelife comfortable.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: "It Takes a Woman."
    Three cheers for femininity
    Rah rah rah ... rah rah rah
    F. E. M. - I. T. Y.
  • Mock Millionaire: Cornelius and Barnaby pretend to be wealthy gentlemen to gain the attention of Irene and Minnie.
  • My Card: Dolly, at every possible opportunity. Lampshaded every time (until the last one) by the card receiver reading theirs out loud, where Dolly is described as performing exactly the task they need done.
    Cornelius: "Dolly Levi: 33-year-old head clerks taught to dance."
  • Nephewism: The show features a widower and two widows, and none of them have children; Ermengarde is Horace Vandergelder's niece.
  • Non-Promotion: Vandergelder announces that he's going to promote his assistant Cornelius to chief clerk, and brushes Cornelius off when he points out that he was the chief clerk already. After he leaves Cornelius says sourly that if he does a very good job, maybe in a decade he'll be promoted to chief clerk again.
  • Opening Chorus: "Call on Dolly."
  • Pet the Dog: Horace reveals that he made his fortune in part by doing a series of good deeds. It's not completely clear if they were all done with ulterior motives though, but his talk of how he was different in his youth means they may not have been.
  • The Plan: The entire play.
  • Race Lift: After the original Broadway production had run for a few years, the entire cast was replaced by an all-black company headed by Pearl Bailey as Dolly and Cab Calloway as Vandergelder. By all accounts, this was a great success, reviving slowed ticket sales. Bailey won a Special Tony Award for her performance.
  • Reprise Medley: The Finale Ultimo is a medley of the title song, "Dancing", "It Only Takes A Moment" and "Put on Your Sunday Clothes".
  • Reverse Psychology: Dolly's main tactic for attracting Vandergelder's interest is to deny firmly and repeatedly that she will ever agree to marry him (and ignore his attempts to point out that he hasn't asked her and had no intention of doing so).
  • Rocky Roll Call: When Vandergelder finds out that his staff and his niece have all snuck off without his permission to spend the evening at, coincidentally, the same restaurant he's meeting Dolly:
    Vandergelder: Cornelius Hackl!
    Cornelius: Mr. Vandergelder!
    Vandergelder: Barnaby Tucker!
    Barnaby: Mr. Vandergelder!
    Ermengarde: [wails]
    Vandergelder: Ermengarde!
  • Second Love: Dolly, Horace and Irene Molloy are all widowed and seeking to remarry for practical purposes, never suspecting they might actually find a love match.
  • "Setting Off" Song: "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" as they're all setting off to New York City.
  • Small Start, Big Finish: "Before the Parade Passes By" and the title song both start off with Dolly singing by herself and snowball into Crowd Songs.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Put On Your Sunday Clothes", about New York City and what an appeal it holds to people stuck in boring old Yonkers.
  • Stereo Fibbing:
    • When Irene asks Cornelius and Barnaby what they're doing in her ladies' hat shop, they give simultaneous and conflicting accounts of their desire to buy ladies' hats.
    • When Irene and Dolly are attempting to persuade Vandergelder that Cornelius is secretly from a famous family:
      Dolly: He's one of the Hackls. They built the canal.
      Vandergelder: What canal?
      Dolly: The Erie! / Irene: The Panama!
      Dolly: Both.
  • Talking to the Dead: Dolly addresses her dead husband, Ephram, and asks him to give her a sign of his consent for her to marry Horace.
  • Title Drop: The title song, of course. In fact, the show was named after the song, not the other way around. The original title was Dolly, a Damned Exasperating Woman, but when producer David Merrick heard Louis Armstrong's recording of "Hello, Dolly!", he liked it so much that he changed the name. The original title gets its own Title Drop in a line by Horace Vandergelder.
  • Villain Song: Though Horace Vandergelder is more of a resentful stick-in-the-mud than a full-on villain, he is given two sleazy showtunes, "It Takes a Woman" and "Penny in my Pocket", which highlight his sexism and his rigid capitalist beliefs respectively.

The movie adds examples of:

  • The Cameo: Louis Armstrong as the band leader in the Harmonia Gardens performing the title song, which he was already associated with from making a hit recording of it around the time the stage version debuted.
  • Crowd Song:
    • "Put On Your Sunday Clothes".
    • "Dancing" expands into one as it goes along.
  • Decomposite Character / Adaptational Name Change: Ernestina Money becomes Ernestina Simple, an alias used by Gussie Granger when she accompanies Horace to the Harmonia Gardens.
  • Dumb Blonde: In the film, Minnie is portrayed as a blonde to Irene's brunette, and Minnie comes across as much more silly and ditzy.
  • Everybody Knew Already: In the movie, after Cornelius admits to Irene that he doesn't have nearly as much wealth or worldliness as Dolly boasted he did, Irene admits that she and Minnie already figured that.
  • Feet-First Introduction: In the film.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: In the "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" scene, as Ermengarde shows off her nice dress.
  • Gold Digger: In the film, Irene and Minnie pretend to be this in order to tease Cornelius and Barnaby about pretending to be wealthy. When Cornelius finally fesses up, they admit that they knew all along, and planned to pay for the fancy dinner they weaseled out of them from the start.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Ambrose and Ermengarde in the film, played by 6-foot-7 Tommy Tune and the rather petite Joyce Ames.
  • "I Am" Song: From the movie, "Just Leave Everything to Me."
  • Just Train Wrong: At the beginning of the film version, a cute little steam train, its livery correctly identifying it as one of the New York Central's, chugs up the Hudson from New York to ... Yonkers, where the film is set. However, in doing so, it passes the steep mountain slopes and goes through the tunnels and other recognizable sights of the Hudson Highlands ... which are well north of Yonkers, but where Garrison Landing, used as 1890s Yonkers in the film, is. In fact, there are no mountains on the Yonkers side of the river.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: See Just Train Wrong, above.
  • Movie Bonus Song: "Just Leave Everything To Me" and "Love Is Only Love."
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Michael Crawford in the film, constantly. The casting department probably figured it could pass for a nonspecific New England accent, but he still sounds downright Cockney in some spots.
  • Paying for the Action Scene: After the big Harmonia Gardens scene, Dolly tells the staff to put the bill for all the damages incurred on the tab of Vandergelder's Hay and Feed.
  • To the Batpole!: There is inexplicably a fire pole in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant.
  • Wedding Finale: The Movie's finale is set during Dolly and Horace's massive wedding.

Alternative Title(s): Hello Dolly