Richard Maltby Jr. Shares Story About What Made Carol Channing a Star

Richard Maltby Jr. Shares Story About What Made Carol Channing a Star

As BroadwayWorld sadly reported earlier this week, the legendary Carol Channing. Channing died at 12:31am on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019, at home in Rancho Mirage, CA of natural causes.

Below, Broadway director, producer and lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. shares a personal story about why Carol was the star that she was.


Carol Channing -- a reminiscence.

For many years, I directed the Manhattan Theatre Club's Spring Gala, which was always a star-studded event. Lynne Meadow, the artistic director of MTC, repeated asked Carol Channing to appear, and each year she very sweetly declined. Then one year, OMG, she said yes.

When Carol arrived for her soundcheck and rehearsal, she could not have been nicer. When she was finished, I asked if there was anything else she needed. She asked how many follow-spots we had. I said we had three. Most solo turns had one follow-spot, a very few had two. She asked for all three. And then she added: "And pull the gels." I went passed the news to our lighting designer who I'm fairly sure was the great Ken Billington. "White light? But she'll look terrible. It's my job to make her look good. What do we do?" I thought for a moment and said, "She's Carol Channing. She's here. She wants three follow spots and no gels. Pull the gels."

The show that night was filled with some pretty big Broadway names and it was really looking good. And then Carol appeared. She had adjusted her make-up to accommodate the white light. In a white dress, with her signature platinum hair, three follow-spots and no gels, she looked gigantic. It was as if you were watching a movie and the screen suddenly turned to IMAX. She was bigger than life. When she left the stage, the show returned to human scale, and I have to say, everyone from then on seemed puny.

It was then that I realized what it means to be a star. Being a star isn't just being greatly talented and performing spectacularly. It is also a responsibility, an obligation. You have to know everything about how to present yourself for every performance. It's a job. and real stars take it very seriously. Carol Channing was six-feet tall, but that is not what made her bigger than life. She was a star because she knew how to do it.

- Richard Maltby Jr.

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