Film's success spurs talk of Broadway revival

Jerry Herman is singing “Hello, Wall-E.”

Two songs from the Rialto composer’s “Hello, Dolly!” — “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes a Moment” — play major roles in the hit Pixar film’s story about a little robot left on a devastated Earth 700 years in the future with only a pair of show tunes to keep him going.

The success of the film is also spurring talk of a major Broadway revival of the 1964 musical.

Herman says there’s been interest in a new “Dolly!” for the past several years, with the Nederlander Org producing, but now the release of “Wall-E” has unexpectedly amplified the buzz. “The movie will only make it more vital, more of an event, and I think a lot of kids would come and see where those songs came from,” says the composer.

Herman, 77, says he was unaware of the importance of the songs to the film until he saw “Wall-E” on opening weekend. But in the movie’s first moments, when he heard Michael Crawford singing “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” he was stunned and moved.

In the film, the robot plays an old videocassette of “Hello, Dolly!” and is transfixed by that upbeat song, as well as the romantic ballad “It Only Takes a Moment,” sung by Crawford and Marianne McAndrew.

Herman has been thinking of possible actresses to topline the revival  for some time. While he concedes the role demands “a big star,” he declines to name any frontrunner. He acknowledges eyeing Queen Latifah to play Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, but says her busy film career would make that casting problematic — at least so far.

Chat rooms and theater insiders have been volunteering casting ideas that range from the fantastic to the obvious: Oprah Winfrey (“An exciting idea, but I don’t think she could devote a year to the production,” says Herman); Meryl Streep (“She can do anything.”); Barbra Streisand, star of the 1969 screen version (“She’s the right age now, but she’s never coming back to Broadway.”); Patti LuPone (“Magnificent.”); Reba McEntire (“I’m crazy for her, but I’m not sure about the accent.”); Bernadette Peters (“We were close friends and I obviously love this lady, but I just don’t know.”).

“Hello, Dolly!” originally starred Carol Channing on Broadway, followed by a series of leading ladies from the screen and stage, including Ginger Rogers, Pearl Bailey, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman. The premiere production ran for 2,844 perfs. It was also revived on the Rialto with Bailey in 1975 and with Channing in 1978 and 1995.

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