Rock the Oscars 2019: Carol Channing

On January 31, 1921, future “Little Girl from Little Rock” and Oscar nominee Carol Channing was born. Alas it was in Seattle.

After gaining the notice of New York critics and audiences in the musical revue, Lend an Ear, Channing achieved Broadway stardom playing fictional Little Rock native Lorelei Lee (the creation of Anita Loos) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  In this show, which opened in December 1949, she introduced the Leo Robin-Jule Styne songs “Little Girl from Little Rock” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

In 1964, she won the Actress in a Musical Tony for her second signature role playing the title character in Hello, Dolly!  Channing also earned a special Tony in 1968 for Dolly when it became the longest-running Broadway musical.

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.  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.

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 1993, she spent her birthday in Washington DC at a White House dinner for the National Governors’ Association.  This was the Clintons’ first official White House dinner after moving in to the residence eleven days prior.  President Bill Clinton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.  She remarked to the President that she was Christian Scientist and didn’t celebrate birthdays, which meant she didn’t get any older.  He replied that it meant the night was her first birthday (it was her 72nd in actuality).

She died earlier this month just two weeks shy of her 98th birthday.

Advertisements

Little Rock Look Back: The City says HELLO, DOLLY! to Carol Channing

52 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.”

Rock the Oscars: Carol Channing

On January 31, 1921, future “Little Girl from Little Rock” and Oscar nominee Carol Channing was born. Alas it was in Seattle.

After gaining the notice of New York critics and audiences in the musical revue, Lend an Ear, Channing achieved Broadway stardom playing fictional Little Rock native Lorelei Lee (the creation of Anita Loos) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  In this show, which opened in December 1949, she introduced the Leo Robin-Jule Styne songs “Little Girl from Little Rock” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”   In 1964, she won the Actress in a Musical Tony for her second signature role playing the title character in Hello, Dolly!  Channing also earned a special Tony in 1968 for Dolly when it became the longest-running Broadway musical.

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.  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.

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 1993, she spent her birthday in Washington DC at a White House dinner for the National Governors’ Association.  This was the Clintons’ first official White House dinner after moving in to the residence eleven days prior.  President Bill Clinton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.  She remarked to the President that she was Christian Scientist and didn’t celebrate birthdays, which meant she didn’t get any older.  He replied that it meant the night was her first birthday (it was her 72nd in actuality).

RobinsoNovember: Carol Channing brings HELLO, DOLLY! to Little Rock

50 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.”

Arkansas Heritage Month – “Little Rock” Songs

Monroe RussellThe Capital City has popped up in a variety of songs in different genres over the years.  Today we look at five notable instances.

Collin Raye’s 1994 song “Little Rock” peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Country charts and was Number 14 for the entire year.  Found on Raye’s album Extremes, it was written by Tom Douglas.  The song centers on a man who is trying to rebuild his life after battles with alcohol have affected his marriage.

Notable lyric: “I think I’m on a roll here in Little Rock.”

 

Hayes Carll’s take on Arkansas’ capital is also known as “Little Rock.” It was his title track from the 2005 album.  It tells the tale of a man who has traveled all over the US and is excited to make it back to Little Rock. With a driving country-rock beat, it typifies Carll’s style of music which has one foot squarely in both camps as a singer-songwriter.

Notable lyric: “All of my life I’ve tried to find/ “a piece of this earth for my peace of mind.”

 

Leo Robin and Jule Styne wrote the 1949 song “Little Girl from Little Rock” for their Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Introduced by Carol Channing, it told of quintessential 1920s vamp Lorelei Lee’s rise from “the wrong side of the tracks” to Manhattan’s elite neighborhoods.  It has remained part of Channing’s repertoire in nightclubs and concerts.  In 1953, it was retooled with sanitized lyrics and made into a duet for Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the film version of the musical.

Notable lyric: “Then someone broke my heart in Little Rock/and I up and left old Arkansas.”

 

Little Rock has also appeared in several “List songs” including “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Originally written with Australian place names in 1959, it was adapted to North American places in 1962 by Hank Snow. Arkansan Johnny Cash recorded it in 1996.

Little Rock appears in the second verse: “Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,”

 

Billy Joel’s 1989 “We Didn’t Start the Fire” contains three references to Little Rock. In the first section’s look at 1949, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific is mentioned.  With a heroine from Little Rock, this musical was the most popular show on Broadway during the 1948-1949 and 1949-1950 Broadway seasons.  The second comes in the 1953 portion with “Rockefeller” which referenced playboy Winthrop Rockefeller’s abandonment of New York City for Arkansas. He had residences in both Little Rock and on Petit Jean Mountain. The final entry came in 1957, when Joel references the Central High integration crisis with the lyric “Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac, Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge on the River Kwai.”

 

Little Rock Look Back: Carol Channing

Carol C2On January 31, 1921, future “Little Girl from Little Rock” Carol Channing was born. Alas it was in Seattle.

After gaining the notice of New York critics and audiences in the musical revue, Lend an Ear, Channing achieved Broadway stardom playing fictional Little Rock native Lorelei Lee (the creation of Anita Loos) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  In this show, which opened in December 1949, she introduced the Leo Robin-Jule Styne songs “Little Girl from Little Rock” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”  Her work in this show predated Tony Award nominations being announced.  (The Tony that year went to Mary Martin for playing another Little Rock native – Nellie Forbush in South Pacific).

Her first Tony nomination came for the The Vamp in 1956. Five years later, she earned a second nomination for Show Girl.  In 1964, she won the Actress in a Musical Tony for her second signature role playing the title character in Hello, Dolly!  Channing also earned a special Tony in 1968 for Dolly when it became the longest-running Broadway musical.

She returned to Lorelei Lee in the reworked update entitled Lorelei and earned a Tony nomination.  In 1995 she earned a Lifetime Achievement Tony.

In the 1960s, she visited Little Rock on a tour of Hello, Dolly! which played at Robinson Auditorium. It was arguably the biggest Broadway show to have played Robinson at that time.  While she was in Little Rock she spent time at the Governor’s Mansion and was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock.  (Nearly 30 years later, she recounted very glowingly her Little Rock visit to the Culture Vulture.)

In 1993, she spent her birthday in Washington DC at a White House dinner for the National Governors’ Association.  This was the Clintons’ first offiical White House dinner after moving in to the residence eleven days prior.  President Bill Clinton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.  She remarked to the President that she was Christian Scientist and didn’t celebrate birthdays, which meant she didn’t get any older.  He replied that it meant the night was her first birthday (it was her 72nd in actuality).

ROCKing the TONYS – Carol Channing

Rock the TonysCarol C2Carol Channing

Little Rock connection: Played fictional Little Rock girl Lorelei Lee and introduced song “A Little Girl from Little Rock” in original Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Later made an honorary Little Rock citizen when she visited Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock with national tour of Hello, Dolly!

Tony Awards connection: Won a Tony Award in 1964 for Actress in a Musical for Hello, Dolly! Received two special Tonys: one in 1968 when Hello, Dolly! became longest-running musical in Broadway history (at the time) and a lifetime achievement award in 1995.  Nominated for her return to role of Lorelei Lee in 1974 for Lorelei, also nominated in 1956 (The Vamp) and 1961 (Show Girl). Has appeared as a presenter and performer on numerous Tony Award ceremonies.