Lee Roy Reams Becomes the First Man to Play Dolly
in a Professional Theatre Production
Hotspots Exclusive Interview with Lee Roy Reams
Crowds around the world have loved the musical Hello, Dolly! ever since it debuted on Broadway back in 1964. The brassy and bubbly matchmaker has been played by a number of famous actors, such as Carol Channing (three times on Broadway!), Barbra Streisand (in the film version) and Pearl Bailey (in an all-black revival). With all those formidable names having filled Dolly’s shoes, it’s a surprise that no man has tried to do so until now.
Enter Tony Award-nominated actor Lee Roy Reams, whose Broadway career has spanned nearly 50 years. He has acted in quite a few musicals, including the 1978 revival of Hello, Dolly!, where he worked with Carol Channing herself. Now, for the first time ever, Dolly will be extra-fabulous with Reams stepping into the role. He is the first male actor to play Dolly in an officially sanctioned professional theatre production of the beloved musical.
The curtains will rise for Hello, Dolly! starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 5 at The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum (7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton). The production will run through Sunday, December 6. Tickets start at $70 per person and can be purchased online by going to thewick.org, or by calling (561) 995-2333.
I had the chance to speak with Lee Roy Reams about his turn as Dolly Levi and about his storied career in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
What’s the one thing you like the most about performing to crowds here in the Sunshine State?
Well, most of them are transplanted New Yorkers and already lovers of the theater, so I feel like I’m singing to the choir down there! [laughs] People remember the Broadway shows and want to see them again, so I think that’s a big plus with the audience there. Until I started working in South Florida, I wasn’t even aware there was so much theater down there. I was pleasantly surprised.
Tell us a little bit about this production of Hello, Dolly! What is there about this musical that will speak to South Florida audiences?
Well, first off, I really wanted Lewis J. Stadlen, who is so talented in his own right, to perform with me, and I got my wish. I have so many great things to say about him.
In general, I think the thing that speaks the most to audiences, no matter where this musical is played, is that Hello, Dolly! is all about going after life and seeking adventure. If you are restricted in terms of what you want out of life, you have to break free of the chains and do what you want to do. When I played Cornelius on Broadway, one of his lines was, “Even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I should be a ditch digger who once had a wonderful day.” That’s the kind of energy Hello, Dolly! puts forth. That’s what it’s about.
Why has it taken so long for there to be a man playing the role of Dolly?
I really don’t know. English actors play women’s roles, and vice versa. I think that’s one of the fun things about acting, being able to play different roles, and even different genders. It allows you to open up your imagination and gives you so much creativity. In Shakespeare’s day, there weren’t even any women on the stage, and in Kabuki theater it was the same thing. I didn’t necessarily go after this role because it was female. I wanted it because it was a good part.
Out of all the roles you’ve ever played, which one meant the most to you and why?
It’s like children in a family. You don’t love any of them more than another, because they all are different and have unique things to offer. I know one of the more memorable roles I’ve ever played was Albin in La Cage aux Folles, which I played on Broadway in the ’80s and again at The Wick this past year. There was a good strong plot and there was so much work involved, but I felt such an incredible energy. Then there was 42nd Street, which brought me prominence…but looking back, I loved them all. I love that I’m back doing Hello, Dolly!