A Forgotten Dolly: Martha Raye!

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! In honor of the upcoming revival of Hello, Dolly! (1964), starring Bette Midler, I wanted to take a post and make known both my fondness for the classic Jerry Herman score and my desire to one day hear audios of every woman who played the title role in the original Broadway production (we’ve already got one of Mary Martin, who played the role in London, and on both the National and International Tours — she’s not in great voice on the album, but I find her electric). We’ve all heard Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey thanks to their cast albums, and bootlegs of Ethel Merman circulate with frequency.


But one Dolly whose performance is less heard is that of comedienne Martha Raye, one of the funniest women from ’50s television — whose work I wish was seen more often today. She succeeded Ginger Rogers (the first star to take the role after Channing) in the original production, making her the third headlining Broadway Dolly. So, in today’s post, I’m offering an audio (highlights only — Dolly’s numbers) of Raye in the original production. Subscribed readers interested in obtaining a copy, please comment below! (And maybe I’ll share some other Dolly rarities at a later date — stay tuned!) Below is Raye — LIVE — with the title tune!



Come back next month for another Musical Theatre rarity! And tune in tomorrow for more Murphy Brown!

26 thoughts on “A Forgotten Dolly: Martha Raye!

    • Hi, John! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, she’s a dynamic performer. Let me know if you’d like access to more surviving live excerpts from one of Raye’s DOLLY performances, and stay tuned for the third Monday in April for a new Musical Theatre post!

  1. Please send a link to Martha’s Dolly clip. Her Dolly was the first Broadway show I attended. I had great seats in the Orchestra, Row D. Gower Champion’s house seats. When my brother-in-law was director of youth at West Side YMCA, he got the tickets from Champion.

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I have emailed you at your gmail address. Sadly, and as we’ve previously discussed, there are no audios of Arden on stage known to be in existence.

  2. Thanks for Raye’s Dolly. I have a numbr of Dolly’s which I am happy to share (I must dig them out). I have a personal interest in this musical as I played Cornelius many years ago!!!

    • Hi, Garry! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I do as well; the only known-to-exist DOLLY audio I’m actively seeking is a complete copy of Ginger Rogers performing the role in 1965 on Broadway.

  3. This is just fabulous, I love your postings! Do you have more of Raye in Dolly? Im seeking audio treasures myself. Please email me? Thanks!


    • Hi, CJ! Thanks for reading, commenting, and subscribing.

      I have emailed you at your gmail address for access to the audio excerpts of Martha Raye in HELLO, DOLLY!

  4. Wow! I am overjoyed and overwhelmed to finally hear Raye in the role of Dolly Levi. My daughter and I were enjoying various cuts by various Dolly’s over the years on a car trip yesterday and, when I mentioned that Raye had been thought to be one of the best of the lot, she found this recording on her phone and played it. Dynamite – and I bet she was a hoot on stage! Thanks so very much for sharing!

  5. A LOT late here, sorry, but could you possibly still share the link to the audio? And, do you have any audio from performances with Phyllis Diller or Eve Arden? Two very forgotten Dolly’s who I wish I could have heard! Thanks very much!

    • Hi, Shawn! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I have emailed you at your gmail address.

      I have not yet heard of recordings with Diller or Arden in the role.

  6. Hi. Just stumbled across this older post, but would love to hear the Raye Dolly numbers — Suspect she did a terrific Parade Passes By.

  7. I saw her as Dolly years ago. The Dolly I would most like to hear is Eve Arden. I wonder if there are any audio recordings of her? I’ve also seen Ginger, Carol, Dorothy, Pearl, Madeline, Yvonne, Nell and Bernadette as Dolly. Ginger was my favorite, probably because she was my first.

    • Hi, Joe! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      There’s no Eve Arden audio out there to my knowledge, but I’d love to hear her — along with Betty Grable and Phyllis Diller!

  8. I’m only just now seeing this! Would it be possible for you to email the highlights of the fabulous Martha Raye to me?! I had no clue this even existed until I was digging through your site! What a surprise!

  9. Hello Jackson
    May I have also have Martha Raye’s audio of “Hello Dolly” As I do like to hear other performer’s interpretation of musicals.

    Thank you.


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