The Playbill Vault Celebrates Tony Award Winner Jerry Herman

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and Brynn Coxand
10 Jul 2014

Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jerry Herman celebrates his birthday July 10. To mark the occasion, the Playbill Vault looks back on his contributions to musical theatre.

Herman's first musical to play on Broadway was 1961's Milk and Honey, but it was the 1964 musical Hello, Dolly! that brought him his first smash hit.

Herman and book writer Michael Stewart collaborated on a musical based on Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, with Ethel Merman in mind to play the title character. She passed on the role, though she would later headline the production's closing cast (see her 1970 Playbill covers here). The part, of course, went to Carol Channing, in what would become a career-defining performance.

The musical was a critical and commercial hit. It won a record-setting 10 Tony Awards, a feat unmatched for decades until The Producers won 12 awards in 2001. Carol Channing earned the Best Actress Tony over Funny Girl's Barbra Streisand, who would later play Dolly in the 1969 movie. 

The production went on to play 2,844 performances, making it the longest-running musical of its time. During its six-year run, stars including Ginger Rogers, Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller and Betty Grable stepped into the iconic role.

The beloved musical has enjoyed three Broadway revivals (in 1975, 1978 and 1995), countless regional productions and a film adaptation directed by Gene Kelly.

Click here to read the Playbill from Hello, Dolly's opening night.


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