Before I proceed to the rest of this review, I should also mention that I had met the composer Jerry Herman and introduced him to a celebrity audience at a party at the famed Gotham Hotel on 46th Street which I hosted for writer Jerry Lawrence, when he performed piano numbers from various of his musicals, including from not only this musical but from Dear World, with the book by Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (events which I’ve reiterated in several volumes of My Year, particularly in My Year 2005) and, a half-year later met Carol Channing briefly at another celebration for Jerry Lawrence’s book, which my press published, in Malibu, the actress with a purse perched across her head, presumably to protect her from the heavy Los Angeles sun. In a recent obituary a commentator described that she had become hair-allergic given the too many times she had died her hair blonde and red. I saw her as a gray-haired beauty, still looking like an elderly version of the Channing I had witnessed on stage.
Gray’s answer is simply “money,” that Dolly is desperate for financial support from the very moment she appears in Act 1. I really disagree. Yes, money is very important in this work, particularly since most of the play’s figures have none of it (or only 165 and some cents in the case the impoverished Cornelius). The marvelous Dolly only has the memory of it through her loving former husband Ephraim Levi, who apparently acquired his cash in order to, “pardon the expression,” spread it around like manure to make young things grow.
But at 71 (my age precisely, when I can no longer even imagine such a stage performance), she sings now in a lower alto voice, and doesn’t quite have the ability nor apparently the desire to strut out upon the stage the way Dolly must in order to make herself totally believable (or some might some claim, unbelievable). Don’t get me wrong: Buckley is a true star, an artist who I highly admire. Yet she just doesn’t somehow have the pizazz of the Dolly in the script, who apparently can transform everything she sees into something else.