Highly Recommended **** Long before Dolly Gallagher Levi won our hearts in the famed “Hello Dolly”, her story was told in the original version “The Matchmaker” written by Thornton Wilder (the man who gave us “Our Town”). While “The Matchmaker” tells us the same basic story, without the music and allows the audience to learn much more about the smaller, but very important characters who take us on this journey into a place they have never been. The basic story is about one Horace Vandergelder ( richly portrayed by Allen Gilmore). He is a man of means with a business in Yonkers but an empty heart since his wife passed. He has retained Dolly Gallagher Levi (gloriously played to perfection by Kristine Nielsen) to find him a match. This is where our story begins, with much more.
The other stories in this wonderful play are about people having their dreams come to reality. They are Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde (a delightful spin by Theo Allyn) who wants to marry an artists, Ambrose (Ronobir Lahiri who also handles some of the music in the show); his two workers, Barnaby Tucker (deftly handled by the very agile Behzad Dabu) and Chief Clerk Cornelius Hackl (played to perfection by Postell Pringle) who have never been out of Yonkers and had an “adventure”. With their employer gone for the day, they make their way to New York for their adventure and decide not to come back until they have kissed a girl!
Barnaby and Cornelius head off for their adventure and as it turns out meet Mrs. Molloy (adorably brought to life by Elizabeth Ledo) and her assistant Minnie Fay (Sydney Germain shines in this role) and their “adventure begins”. By the way, Mrs. Molloy was the intended “match” for Vandergelder, which makes it much more fun. While most of this is very close to what you see in the musical version, there is much more humor in this version with some characters that are special and deserve note. Malachi Stack (Marc Grapey is as sharp as ever) is Vendergelder’s new employee and he sort of turns the tables on his boss. The ending scenes involve Ms Flora Van Huysen ( a magical comic touch by Marilyn Dodds Frank, who you will fall in love with). Both of these characters often talk to the audience, as do others in the play .
Directed with a comical flair by Henry Wishcamper on a wonderful set (Neil Patel) that takes us from Yonkers to New York and from general store to Harmonia Gardens Club, this two and a half hours of magic will seem much shorter. If we are into the story, as you will be in this one, you will find that you want to stay with these characters until you get to hear all their stories have come to a conclusion. At the very end, Barnaby will come forward and advise you of the moral of the story. It is a great moment on the stage for both the cast, who appear to be having as much fun as we are and the audience, having had a wonderful experience. The ensemble members of this cast, who handle many roles including bringing music to the non-musical are: Lawrence E. DiStasi, Anita Hollander and Ron Rains (who plays a mean “saw” to open Act Two). They change wigs, costumes (Jenny Mannis does an exquisite job) and personalities with great ease. By the way, Dolly does get her man in the end, in a scene that will bring a smile to your face and a tingle to your heart.
The technical parts of this production are also part of what makes this experience just that, a theatrical experience. David Lander’s lighting, Richard Woodbury’s original music and sound, along with Patel’s set take us away from out daily lives and bring us back to the late 1890’s, in a world that we never knew except from the books we studied in school. This new version of “The Matchmaker” gracing the stage of The Goodman is one that is worthwhile viewing. It is funny, delightful and tells a story that is worth hearing. If you are willing to watch “Hello Dolly” in its original form (yet updated) without the music, you will have a wonderful time and learn that things that you do not feel can come your way, just might if you ware willing to reach out and have an “adventure”. “Oh, Pudding!”.
“The Matchmaker” will continue at The Goodman Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Matinees at 2 p.m. on 3/17,3/24 and 3/31
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
No evenings on Sunday 4/3 and 4/10)
Tickets range from $25-$82 and are available at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Matchmaker
there are many discounts and special events- visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/access
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Matchmaker”.