Hello, Dolly!

Notes and Glossary

The earliest version of the story of Hello, Dolly! was an 1835 English one-act play, A Day Well Spent, by John Oxenford. In 1842, it became a full-length play, Einen Jux will er sich machen (He Wants to Go Off On a Spree), by the Austrian Johann Nestroy. Thornton Wilder adapted Nestroy’s play into his 1938 farce The Merchant of Yonkers, a flop, which he revised, expanding the role of Dolly, and retitled The Matchmaker in 1955, which starred Ruth Gordon. The Matchmaker became a hit and was much revived and made into a 1958 film of the same name starring Shirley Booth. The story was made into a musical in 1963 by Michael Stewart (book) and Jerry Herman (music and lyrics), with the working title of Dolly, A Damned Exasperating Woman (from a line in The Matchmaker). It had rocky tryouts in Detroit and Washington, DC. To promote the show, Louis Armstrong made a demo recording of the song "Hello, Dolly!", which became a Billboard #1 single. When producer David Merrick heard Armstrong’s recording of the song he changed the title of the show. The musical opened January 16, 1964, with Carol Channing as Dolly, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, and Eileen Brennan as Irene. The movie was made in 1969 with Barbra Streisand as Dolly, Walter Matthau as Vandergelder, Michael Crawford as Cornelius, and Tommy Tune as Ambrose, with Louis Armstrong as the orchestra leader and singing the title song. In the 2008 film WALL-E the title character has a Betamax tape of the film, and the songs "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Only Takes a Moment" play repeatedly during the film.


Act I, Scene 1: Along Fourth Avenue, New York City, near Grand Central Station

Act I, Scene 2 (or 2a): Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed Store, Yonkers

Act I, Scene 3 (or 2b): The Yonkers Depot

Act I, Scene 4 (or 3a): The Yonkers Depot

Act I, Scene 5 (or 3b): Fourteenth Street

Act II, Scene 1: Beginning In Front of the Hoffman House Hotel, on Fifth Avenue, ending Outside the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, on the Battery

Act II, Scene 2 (or 2a): Inside the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant 

Act II, Scene 3 (or 2b): A Courtroom on Centre Street

Act II, Scene 4 (or 2c): The Hay and Feed Store, Yonkers

New York City around 1890

The appearance of New York City in 1890 was different from today’s city. The city itself consisted of Manhattan and part of The Bronx. Brooklyn was a separate city, and the third largest city in the United States. Queens and Staten Island were still somewhat rural. There were no skyscrapers or subways. The first skyscraper, the Flatiron Building came in 1902 and the first subway two years later. The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1893; the rest of the bridges across the East River opened in the 20th century. Penn Station opened in 1910: before then passengers using the Pennsylvania Railroad (and the B & O, Reading, and Erie) took a ferry across the Hudson River to get to Manhattan. Grand Central Depot had been opened in 1871 and served the New York Central and New Haven railroads. (Grand Central was rebuilt in 1899-1900 and reopened as Grand Central Station, then rebuilt again 1903-1913 and reopened as Grand Central Terminal. See the map of New York railroads around 1900.) Trinity Church, located at 79 Broadway at Wall Street, was the highest structure in New York until the New York World Building was built in 1890.


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