If you didn’t win the Powerball—and you didn’t—you should still feel lucky. Not only is Hello, Dolly! coming back to Broadway in April 2017, but the incomparable Bette Midler is set to play the title role. Over the weekend, the Divine Miss M announced on Twitter that she will appear as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the first Broadway revival of the Jerry Herman hit in 20 years.
This casting decision may seem like an obvious choice, but it’s easy to forget how exciting this news is for Midler fans. Although she has held special concerts in Broadway venues, been a producer, and last appeared on the Great White Way only two years ago (in the one-woman play I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers) this is her first appearance in a Broadway musical since the 1960s. Before her national career took off, Midler was a replacement Tzeitel in the original run of Fiddler on the Roof, and hasn’t been back in a company since.
No further Hello, Dolly! casting has been announced, but the creative team is shaping up to be quite the lineup as well, including Scott Rudin as producer (he has EGOT status) and Jerry Zaks as director (his list of musical credits is so long it looks like the inside of my iPod).
For those of you whose only association with this Hello, Dolly! is vaguely recalling “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from WALL·E, Here’s a refresher: The musical is the Jerry Herman megahit about a widow and socialite named Dolly in New York at the turn of the twentieth century who turns every place she goes upside down with her schemes of setting up sometimes unwitting couples. Dolly is so enticing a role for a diva to play that everyone from Carol Channing to Ethel Merman has had a turn in the role of the marvelous, meddling matchmaker. Of course, Barbra Streisand played the role in the 1969 film—around the time Midler was leaving Fiddler.
Of the choice to cast Midler, composer/lyricist Jerry Herman said: “Who is out there that has the necessary stature, warmth, the incredible talent and ability, and especially the singular, outsized personality that I was looking for in a 21st century Dolly? Only one person: Bette Midler. Only Bette could bring Dolly brilliantly back to ‘the lights of 14th Street!'”
Amen, Mr. Herman. And only 419 days until the show begins previews. But who’s counting?