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Pearl Bailey

Pearl Bailey

Pearl Bailey, performer

Born in Southampton County, Virginia, Pearl Bailey had been a singer and entertainer through the 1940s, playing USO shows for the troops and singing in nightclubs with such artists as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. She made her Broadway debut in the 1946 Arlen/Mercer musical St. Louis Woman, and returned to Broadway in 1950 to play the role of a former slave in the musical Arms and the Girl, sharing the stage with Nanette Fabray and Georges Guétary.

In 1954, Pearl Bailey was back on Broadway, starring as Madame Fleur in House of Flowers, a collaboration of Truman Capote (who had written the novella of the same name) and Harold Arlen.  The musical, set in Trinidad and Tobago, featured an integrated cast, including Bailey, Diahann Carroll in her Broadway debut, a young Alvin Ailey, and Ray Walston.

Bailey did not return to the Broadway stage until November 12, 1967, when she partnered up with her longtime colleague Cab Calloway as replacements in an all-black edition of Hello, Dolly! That production was so successful that Bailey and Calloway took it on national tour.  Bailey was honored for her performance with a Tony® Special Award in 1968.

Bailey last appeared on Broadway in the 1975 revival of the show.