Trump Derangement Syndrome now infects a Broadway musical revival.
The national tour of “Hello, Dolly!” just opened the second leg of its 10-month multicity run at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre. But the frothy, feel-good musical has turned into a whodunit.
When “Dolly” premiered in 1964, its irresistible title song cemented composer-lyricist Jerry Herman as the heir apparent to Irving Berlin and Frank Loesser—king of musical-theater optimism. Mr. Herman went on to compose two other megahits, “Mame” and “La Cage aux Folles.” But “Dolly” put him on the map….
So it came as a shock when, barely seven minutes into a recent matinee performance, in the third verse of Dolly Levi’s first song, “I Put My Hand In,” I heard actress Betty Buckley sing: “My aplomb at cosmetic art turned a frump to a great lady fair.”
“Stop the show!” I hollered. Actually, I didn’t, but I wanted to. For Mr. Herman’s original lyric is “My aplomb at cosmetic art turned a frump to a trump lady fair.” Someone had rewritten the lyric, replacing “trump” with the bland, nonrhyming “great.” But why? Merriam-Webster’s third definition of “trump” is “a dependable and exemplary person.” It’s a perfectly good word, even if the erudite Mr. Herman had used it in one of its lesser-known adjectival forms.
Nevertheless, someone decided to spare either the actress from uttering or the audience from hearing the surname of our 45th president. What other motivation could lurk behind this idiotic decision? And lest you think this was a one-off flub by Ms. Buckley, a friend noticed the rewrite at a different performance and hastened to tell me about it. The change is intentional—it’s in the show….
One wonders whether Mr. Herman, 87, approved the change—or was even consulted. That he would sanction a rewrite that so ham-handedly mauls his elegant internal rhyme stretches credulity. If the master lyricist had put his hand in, he’d have come up with a rewrite that rhymed. (The New York and Chicago press agents for the tour did not return calls seeking comment.)
Whatever your politics, this reeks of bowdlerization, the sort of censorship that should have died with Bowdler himself. All the sadder because it mars what is otherwise a glorious revival of this moving musical….