Celebrated film, television, and theatre star Pearl Bailey was born March 29, 1918. The actor, known for her iconic turn as Dolly Levi, made her Broadway debut one day prior to her 28th birthday in St. Louis Woman, beginning a lauded three decade career on Broadway.
Bailey is the only actor—other than Carol Channing—to take on the title role in multiple Broadway productions of Hello, Dolly!, assuming the role in November 1967, almost four years after the musical debuted at the St. James Theatre. The African-American Bailey was joined by a wholly new, all-black cast when she came to the production, led by Cab Calloway as Horace Vandergelder. The response to her performance was overwhelming, breathing new life into a then already long-running production. Bailey was awarded a special Tony Award in 1968 for her performance, and the entire cast recorded its own cast album as well—an unusual practice then and now.
The original production of Hello, Dolly! closed in 1970, but Bailey came back to Broadway in the role for a new revival that was created expressly for her in 1975, this time appearing alongside recording artist Billy Daniels.
Flip through photos of the Bailey in Hello, Dolly! Below: