Posts Categorized: Pearl Bailey

The 1968 African American Cast of Hello Dolly and Pearl Bailey

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In 1968, the Tony Awards had an amazing performance.  Carol Channing took the stage to announce a show that she made famous as well as one of the first and most talented African American stars of the great white way, Pearl Bailey.  If you think about it, an African American revival of Hello Dolly with a black Dolly Levi wouldn’t be shocking now.  In 1968 it was a huge surprise and something people were shocked to see.  When you think of Hello Dolly, you think of Carol Channing or Barbra Streisand, not a black woman.  That is one of the reasons this performance is one of the most Epic Tony Awards performances ever.

Pearl Bailey didn’t miss a moment.  To have someone that originated the role, especially someone like Carol Channing announce and pass the torch is amazing.  Getting the go ahead and sign off from a legend not only shows how talented and amazing Pearl Bailey is, but this cast tore up the stage beyond belief.  The voices, the choreography and the acting was right on par and easily able to be argued better than many of the white casts that had been there before.

1968 was a time of war and protest, racism and hate.  To take a white show and add an all black cast was unheard of, unless it was broadway.  To gain the support of the theatre community, celebrities like Carol Channing and having an insanely talented person like Pearl Bailey as the lead, they were able to pull it off and make it an epic performance that will be hard to beat.  The reason I am posting this is that we had our first Non black or white Miss America crowned recently.  Instead of embracing her as an Indian-American and understanding that Americans come in many shades and colors, racists threw out comments, called her a terrorist and absolutely went out of their way to denounce her as a representative of our country.

This cast probably went through a lot of the same things.  Luckily the broadway community has always welcomed, loved and supported differences, cultures and embraced everyone from gays to blacks and Jews to Christians.  They may make fun of every race and background, but they love them, welcome them and not only put them on stage, but cheer them on, support them and give them awards based on talent, not color.  I wish the new Miss America a great start to her title and hope that everyone who reads this post does too.