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Well, Hello, Carolee Carmello: Here She Is in Hello, Dolly!

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Have a look at our country’s latest Dolly Gallagher Levi. This fall, broadway veteran Carolee Carmello has joined the the national tour of Hello, Dolly! as it heads into its second year, and Vulture has the first look at her in the character’s famous red dress and skyscraper-high headpiece. Carmello, a three-time Tony nominee for Parade, Lestat, and Scandalous, is replacing Betty Buckley on the tour, and following in the footsteps of Bette Midler, Donna Murphy, and Bernadette Peters, who led the show on Broadway. “It’s one of those iconic images that you as an actress have in the back of your mind,” Carmello told Vulture of her big entrance on the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens, which precedes the scene above. “The curtain opens and you just stand there and people applaud because you’re standing there. I barely have to do anything, and then I just have to manage to walk down the stairs without falling, which so far I’ve been able to do.”

Dolly! marks the first time Carmello’s set out on the road with a show since joining a national tour of Falsettos in 1993. (She also previously appeared in tours of Chess, Les Miz, and Big River.) In a sense, she feels like she’s right back where she belongs. “I had children who needed to grow up and leave the house,” Carmello said, her youngest son having gone off to college a month before she started in Dolly!, “so it was perfect timing.”

Carmello is currently in performances in St. Louis and the tour’s schedule will take her on through Oklahoma City, Tucson, Hartford, and Detroit in the coming weeks. As she finds her way into the role, she told Vulture that she’s been figuring out the balance of the show’s humor as well as Dolly’s quieter monologues. “I’m hoping that those are coming across as well as I’m trying to make them, because it’s a nice juxtaposition,” Carmello said. “She’s so smart and so fast, but then when she’s alone and she’s sort of in her own mind and communicating with her deceased husband, there’s just this beautiful, sweet, emotional moment.”

Betty Buckley, the show’s previous Dolly and Carmello’s former castmate in Lincoln Center Theater’s Elegies, gave Carmello “whatever tips she could about what she learned over the year she was doing it.” Most of which, as it turns out, centered on managing the show’s elaborate costumes, specifically those hats and headpieces. Buckley told her “to be careful walking through doorways and getting in and out of little spots on the set,” Carmello said. “It was good to remember, because I do have a tendency to walk through doors and not realize that I’m twice as big as I think I am.”

Well, Hello, Carolee Carmello: Here She Is in Hello, Dolly!