Carol Channing might have been known for her raspy voice and over-the-top personality, but the Broadway-legend’s influence will never be passed by.
Carol Channing was star of stage and screen. While mostly associated with Broadway, this entertainment icon was instantly identifiable. From that blond blob to her notable raspy voice, this vivacious performer dazzled audiences for decades. With her passing at 97, a look back at her storied career proves that her influence will be felt in the theater community forever.
For many people, Channing is often associated with the classic Broadway musical Hello, Dolly. While the production has been told and re-told over the years, the Dolly Levi character was often associated with Channing.
Channing’s portrayal of the meddling but well-intended match-maker was the impeccable balance of over-the-top humor and nuanced emotion. While her descent from down the stair case would draw applause, the emotions conveyed through her voice was more compelling.LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 25: Actress Carol Channing performs at The 4th Annual S.T.A.G.E. Event on October 25, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images)
Her voice was instantly recognizable. While that raspy quality was unique, her uproarious laugh was irresistible. It was impossible not to respond to her comedic talent.
In the Hello, Dolly! role, Channing proved that a young ingénue didn’t have to be the focus of a successful production. A women who could laugh at herself yet never forget who she was and what she stood for should and needed to be celebrated. As she reprised this role numerous times over the years, each performance gained depth from all her experiences.
One of the reasons why people were drawn to Channing was because she was an entertaining comedian. While her physical presence was astounding, her persona was approachable. It might have been her infectious smile. Or, it could have been the idea that she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously. In either case, she was confident in herself, which inspired confidence in others.
Still, Channing wasn’t just known for her portrayal of Dolly Levi. Before the meddlesome matchmaker, Channing played the Lorelei Lee in the stage version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Although many people equate that role with Marilyn Monroe, Channing was the original blonde singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Even more telling, she embraced the comedic performances and revue-style shows before they were popular for women. Whether working beside George Burns or earning a Tony nomination for her revue, Show Girl, she made interesting choices. Even in her appearance on Sesame Street, she found the levity in her most famous character, Dolly Levi.
As many people look back at her long, storied career, her choices both on stage and in life, were all her own. Whether it was the comedic approach to a character to her haircut that became her signature style, she was her own person. Although some might think of it as an act, it made her unique in a world of sameness.
That ideal should stand as a strong example for more people. While no one will ever have her iconic voice or memorable persona, everyone can strive to stand out as their own person. Shouldn’t we all want to stand out in a world of where everyone is striving to fit in? Embracing yourself and your uniqueness needs to be celebrated more.
As the world says so long, dearie to the legendary Carol Channing, it is a perfect time to remember the lyrics to a Hello, Dolly! song. Let us all raise the roof and carry on with spunk, tenacity and a little humor.
Thank you, Carol Channing, for the inspiration and let your legendary career continue to inspire us until the parade passes us all by.