A recap of Carol Channing memorable – and star-studded – 95th birthday celebration
My friend Harlan Boll, who is Carol Channing’s longtime publicist, sent me a recap earlier today of what sounds like an amazing 95th birthday party over the weekend for the Broadway legend.
On Saturday, Miss Channing was feted in style as the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert presented Carol Channing’s 95th Birthday! In Celebration of a Broadway Legend.
It was a star-studded performance was produced and directed by Chad Hilligus with music direction and orchestrations by Steven Baker and choreography by Charlie Williams.
Seated in the front row of the beautiful McCallum Theatre, Miss Channing was treated to a retrospective of her legendary career featuring live performances, video clips and video tributes.
The presenters appearing live on stage to share their affection and recollections included Lucie Arnaz, Alan Cumming, Florence Henderson, Gavin MacLeod (who read a message from President Barack Obama) and Lily Tomlin.
Memorable performances from Miss Channing’s extensive career songbook were delivered by Laura Bell Bundy (I’m Just a Little Girl from Little Rock/Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes); Anika Noni Rose (Jazz Baby from Thoroughly Modern Millie); Eden Espinosa (You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Played the Palace from Showgirl); Thomas Lauderdale and Storm Large of Pink Martini (Calypso Pete from Show Girl); Tom Wopat (Razzle Dazzle from Chicago) and a show-stopping performance by 92-year old Carole Cook (Before the Parade Passes By from Hello, Dolly!) which received a standing ovation from the sold-out audience.
The evening concluded with a rousing rendition of Hello, Dolly! featuring eight Broadway dancers (Brandon Cournay, Adam Fleming, Marty Lawson, Gary Milner, Adam Perry, Keven Quillon, Ryan Steele and Robbie Roby), along with the entire cast and 28-piece orchestra.
As a microphone was brought into the audience, Miss Channing herself sang along with the cast on the last few bars to the delight of everyone in the house.
Video tributes came from: Dame Julie Andrews, Barbara Walters, Angela Lansbury, Whoopi Goldberg, Brooke Shields, Melissa Manchester, Valerie Harper, Kaye Ballard, Betty White, Kristin Chenoweth, Lee Roy Reams, Carol Burnett, Leeza Gibbons and former President Bill Clinton, as well as from the Broadway casts of She Loves Me, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, Wicked, An American in Paris, Fun Home, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Spring Awakening, Matilda, Kinky Boots and The King and I.
In conjunction with the performance, the McCallum Theatre has established The Carol Channing Fund for the Arts to honor the legendary star’s passionate advocacy for the arts and education through the arts.
The Fund will help make it possible for the McCallum Theatre to continue to provide important education and outreach programs to students and educators in California’s Coachella Valley at the very highest level of excellence.
For information or to make a contribution, go to www.mccallumtheatre.com and click on “Donate Now” at the top of the homepage.
Donations may also be made by check, payable to McCallum Theatre and mailed to 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, CA. Please indicate on the check and online that your donation is a tribute to The Carol Channing Fund for the Arts.
Bottom two photos courtesy of my Facebook friend Patrick Rinn. Photo of Alan Cumming and Lucie Arnaz courtesy of Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill.