In the wake of the tragic passing of legendary performer Carol Channing, I thought I would take a look at her most iconic role. By the time she attempted this part, she had already given one of Broadway’s greatest comedic performances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and her performance there was arguably more nuanced, but it never quite approached the sense of sheer joy and triumphant, life-embracing inspiration she had as Dolly. As most of you probably know, virtually every major Musical Theater diva has attempted the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi at some point in their careers (Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Barbra Streisand, Phyllis Diller, Pearl Bailey, Bette Midler, Donna Murphy, Bernadette Peters…that isn’t even a complete list, by the way). But while I will admit that Streisand probably sang the part best from a purely vocal perspective, and that Channing’s odd vocal style can be an acquired taste for some people, no other Dolly has ever approached the sheer life-affirming impact of Channing in the role, especially on the show’s title song, which is universally acknowledged as the showstopper to end all showstoppers and which has never been pulled off as magnificently by any other performance. While it goes without saying that Channing is brilliant on the show’s original cast album, it’s actually her second full recording of the score, made as late as 1994, that better captures the true dazzle and splendor she reportedly brought to the role onstage. In any case, both those recordings are definitely in the “required listening” category for anyone who cares even the slightest about Broadway Musicals or Show Tunes. No matter how many legends are drawn to the role, there will never be another Dolly Levi equal to Channing, and despite the derogatory jokes some people made about her vocal sound during her life, her recorded performances will enable her to live on forever as one of Broadway’s most one-of-a-kind long-term performing legends.