hello dolly

2

That lovable moppet with the red dress, the curly hair, the big dog, and the even bigger voice is back.

This time, though, Little Orphan Annie is back with a difference: Quvenzhane Wallis is playing an African-American orphan in an ethnically diverse, up-to-date world. And that got us thinking about other instances where producers have breathed fresh life into familiar shows by making them dance to a new beat.

In the late 1960s, after 1,500 performances, Broadway's Hello Dolly! was still arguably “glowin’” and “crowin’” but was no longer “goin’ strong.” Carol Channing had long since departed with a touring company. And her first three replacements on the Great White Way — Ginger Rogers, Bette Grable and Martha Raye — had been playing to ever-diminishing crowds. Newer shows like Man of La Mancha and Cabaret were making Dolly seem old hat.

Then producer David Merrick figured out how to make Dolly the freshest face on the block. He hired not just a new star, but a whole new cast. A whole new black cast, at the height of the civil rights movement — Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, even a youngster named Morgan Freeman making his Broadway debut — and suddenly, his tired old warhorse looked new again.

An Updated ‘Annie’ And The Tradition Of Nontraditional Casting

Photo credits: (Top) Barry Wetcher/Sony Pictures Entertainment. (Bottom) Columbia Pictures/Getty Images, (Left) John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty. (Right) Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images