53 years ago tonight, on November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium. She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.
Channing, who had won the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in this show, had recently returned to the national tour. She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.
Her breakout role was in 1949’s GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDS. In that show she introduced the song “Little Girl from Little Rock.” Since it had helped make her a star, she had long felt an affinity for the Arkansas capital. Therefore when she rejoined the tour, she required that LR be one of her stops before she left the tour.
While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties. She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.
But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost. Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”
In assessing the show’s run in Little Rock (which would be seen by more than 20,000 people), Lewis summed up what many felt at the time — and to hear the reminiscences from a half century later, it still is a heartfelt sentiment — “A week’s too little.”