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A complete guide to all the songs in 'Hello, Dolly!'

Learn more about the songs in Hello, Dolly!, such as "It Takes a Woman" and "Put On Your Sunday Clothes." The musical opens at the London Palladium next summer.

Julia Rank
Julia Rank

In summer 2024, Imelda Staunton stars in the title role of a new production of Jerry Herman’s beloved musical Hello, Dolly!, directed by Dominic Cooke at the London Palladium. Andy Nyman, Jenna Russell and Tyrone Huntley have been confirmed to co-star. Book your tickets for this strictly limited run of an unmissable slice of musical comedy heaven before the parade passes by.

Hello, Dolly! was first performed on Broadway on 1964; it played 2,844 performances (the longest-running Broadway show of its time) and gave Carol Channing her signature role. The 1969 film version starred Barbra Streisand and was directed by Gene Kelly. It was most recently revived in London at the Open Air Theatre in 2009 starring Samantha Spiro, and on Broadway in 2017 starring Bette Midler (with Donna Murphy as her alternate and Bernadette Peters as her successor).

The plot follows Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow, matchmaker and professional meddler (in the most charming way) as she attempts to marry hay and feed merchant Horace Vandergelder and redistribute his wealth. On the way, she pairs up several more couples and leads an unforgettable night on the town. The evergreen score with its irresistible joie de vivre combines a brassy Broadway sound with plenty of more tender moments. It only takes a moment to become completely smitten.

Book Hello, Dolly! tickets on London Theatre.

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"Call On Dolly/I Put My Hand In"

Introducing our heroine: Dolly is famous for her matchmaking skills, among many other talents. She’s “always been a woman who arranges things… like furniture and daffodils and lives.” Much of the time, “mother nature needs a little push” and you can always count on Dolly to tactfully move things along. It’s more than a hustle to make extra cash, it’s a vocation.

This number was replaced in the film version with “Just Leave Everything to Me” – a real tour de force for Barbra Streisand with some of Herman’s most exuberant lyrics (it was used to brilliant effect in the opening sequence of the first episode of the second series of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.)

"It Takes a Woman"

Introducing Mr Horace Vandergelder, “the well-known unmarried half a millionaire.” Taken on its own, these lyrics are wince-worthy: Horace isn’t one for getting his hands dirty or paying for domestic help, and dreams about a woman “all powdered and pink / To joyously clean out the drain and the sink.” It’s best laced with plenty of irony and the reprise shows that Dolly is definitely the one who will manage Horace.

"Put On Your Sunday Clothes"

One of the most joyous and uplifting numbers in musical theatre, a paean to seizing the day and enjoying yourself while you can. It is led by Horace’s two assistants, Cornelius and Barnaby, who contemplate venturing beyond the quiet suburb of Yonkers to the big city filled with “girls in white in a perfumed night where the lights are bright as the stars.” Dressing up for the occasion is all-important: “Get out your feathers, your patent leathers, your beads and buckles and bows.” By the end of the number, the two young men are joined by the entire company on their way for a night to remember in which “we won’t come home until we fall in love."

You might remember this song in the Pixar film Wall-E. It teaches the eponymous robot about love and connections, which he applies to his relationship with fellow robot Eve.

Imelda Staunton - LT - 1200x600

"Ribbons Down My Back"

A poetic outlier in the score. Irene Molloy, a young widow, imagines the ribbons on her hat billowing in the wind “blue and green and streaming in the yellow sky” and catching a new love’s attention. An unusual and delicate number with an understated optimism mixed with melancholy.

"Motherhood"

Back on brassy form in a farcical scene in which Cornelius and Barnaby pretend to be wealthy gentlemen but have to hide in a cupboard when Horace enters the store. Dolly sings about advocating for “motherhood, America and a hot lunch for orphans,” joined by Irene and her assistant Minnie Fay, as they attempt to distract Horace.

"Dancing"

Dolly arranges for the boys to take Irene and Minnie out for the evening and teaches them how to dance in preparation. By the end of this lovely waltz number, both couples are dancing in perfect harmony and a double romance is on the cards.

"Before the Parade Passes By"

The emotional centre of the story. At the 14th Street Parade, Dolly contemplates life as a widow and concludes that her beloved late husband Ephraim wouldn’t want her to mourn indefinitely. Starting slowly in a contemplative mood, the song gains traction, culminating in a rousing climax with the rest of the company (he loved a march, did Jerry Herman). With its message of living life to the fullest and not letting chances of happiness pass you by (“I’m gonna raise the roof, I’m gonna carry on / Give me an old trombone, give me an old baton”), it’s an invaluable lesson for life.

"Elegance"

Cornelius and Barnaby have escorted Irene and Minnie into the city but don’t have any money. They convince the ladies that walking is really the most elegant way to get around.

"Hello, Dolly!"

Look at the old girl now, fellas! It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, as Dolly returns to the Harmonia Gardens dressed to the nines and is greeted by the team of handsome waiters. An iconic diva number in which the heroine wears a fabulous gown and descends an ornate staircase; not even the Queen of Sheba would be so feted.

"It Only Takes a Moment"

Following a free-for-all at the restaurant, the gang end up in court – not the usual setting for the big romantic ballad. Cornelius and Barnaby are resolute that it’s worth it for having had the chance to fall in love with Irene and Minnie. Beautifully tender in its restraint, “I held her for an instance / But my arms felt sure and strong,” how could any judge punish them, especially when the jury sing the words back? This number also features in Wall-E.

"So Long, Dearie"

Dolly has had enough of Horace’s curmudgeonly behaviour. She tells him that she’ll be living it up while he wallows in a miserly and lonely existence.

"Hello, Dolly!" (reprise)

But of course there has to be a happy ending. Horace admits that his life is much more exciting for having Dolly in it. “Dolly will never go away again” – but there’s no way she’s going to settle for a staid existence!

Other songs:

Horace’s solo "A Penny in My Pocket" was cut during Broadway previews but reinstated for David Hyde Pierce in the 2017 revival – we’ll see if this production also uses it. The head waiter at the Harmonia Gardens prepares the team for their VIP guest with "The Waiters’ Gallop" and "The Polka Contest" turns rowdy and results in chaos and a trip to court. We can’t wait to see these production numbers fill the Palladium stage!

Photo credit: artwork for Hello, Dolly! (Photo courtesy of production)
Imelda Staunton, who will take on the title role at the London Palladium.

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