Carol Channing often said she had special affection for, as she used to say onstage here, “Philadelphia and its environs.” Here is just a sampling of highlights from her many appearances on local stages:
November 1949: This was the big one, a pre-Broadway tryout at the Forrest Theatre for a new play, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Channing, 28, stepped on the boards for the first time as Lorelei Lee. It went on to a 741-performance smash run on Broadway and made Channing a star. She recalled in 1981 that in her very first number in her very first performance, she “messed up,” starting at the second verse first. The orchestra stopped, started again, and she repeated her mistake. “So I told the audience we were going to have to do it one more time,” she recalled. “ ‘Fine,’ they yelled, ‘we don’t care if you do it 10 times.’ So I just stood there until I calmed down, and we did it right the third time. The audience stood up and cheered. What a WONderful audience! They pulled me through!” She often said she loved Philly for giving her her start.
1955: Wonderful Town at the Shubert.
1960: Show Girl, a revue with Jules Munshin at the New Locust Theatre. Reprised at the Locust in 1970. Inquirer writer William Collins, in a review titled “That Channing Magic — Minus Music — Remains Strong,” wrote that “Miss Channing’s overriding whim is that you are going to enjoy yourself at the play … [and she] succeeds with all the wild, unearthly craft at her command” in this nonmusical collection of vignettes.
1971: The Carol Channing Show at the Valley Forge Music Fair.
1973: Lorelei at the Forrest Theatre. Reprised in 1975 at the Valley Forge Music Fair.
1976: The Bed Before Yesterday at the New Locust Theatre.
1981: Hello, Dolly! at the Valley Forge Music Fair.
1984: Jerry’s Girls with Leslie Uggams and Andrea McArdle at the Playhouse in Wilmington.