The Matchmaker makes her match at The Arts Club

Say hello to the famed matchmaking busybody Dolly Gallagher Levi as The Matchmaker brings her to The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. Thorton Wilder’s 1954 comedy served as the inspiration for the iconic musical Hello Dolly!, which turned Dolly Levi into a legendary role.

In The Arts Club Theatre Company’s The Matchmaker, director Ashlie Corcoran, guides an ensemble of 14 actors playing 16 characters through a maze of forbidden love, mistaken identities, madcap adventures and hysterical hijinx, resulting in much spontaneous laughter and applause from the audience throughout the performance.

Nicole Lipman as Dolly Levi
photo: David Cooper

While Nicole Lipman’s Dolly stirs the plot and characters with her cunning charm, it’s cantankerous Horace Vandergelder, played by Ric Reid, who sets the wheels in motion as the other characters seek to avoid or win “the first citizen of Yonkers'” favour. Whether it’s trying to keep his niece Ermengarde (Julie Leung) from marrying artist Ambrose Kemper (Nadeem Phillip), keep his love interest Mrs Molloy on a string whilst there is another potential suitor, or keep his employees in check in spite of their desire for adventure, Mr Vandergelder never quite succeeds with Dolly really pulling the strings.

The Matchmaker
photo: David Cooper

As the characters move the action from Yonkers “where nothing ever happens”, to New York City, Mrs Molloy (Naomi Wright) and her flighty shop assistance Minnie (Georgia Beaty) are the first bold flashes of colour both in character, costume and setting of her millinery shop. When they stumble into the shop, the ladies awaken something within Mr. Vandergelder’s naive shop clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker. Played with leading-man charm and charisma by Tyrone Savage and wide-eyed innocence by Daniel Doheny, respectively, the gentlemen were seeking an adventure and found much more than they bargained for, or could afford, but in Dolly’s world everything has a way of working out, for everyone.

Throughout the adventure we meet an assortment of colourful characters each with their own over-the-top eccentricities. The audience becomes a 17th character when many of the characters break the fourth wall to speak directly to the room; sharing their feelings, or words of wisdom albeit when coming from drunkard Malachi Stack, hilariously played by Scott Bellis, they might be taken with a shot of whiskey. With so much happening on stage, the whole performance moves like a dance as players move in, out and over the sets and costumes on their way to happily ever after.

Drew Facey’s beautiful production design creates a world, with four distinct sets, reminiscent of The Gilded Age but with hints of modernity in the set decorations and costumes that make it a world all its own. The set and costumes lends just enough realism to ground the show but the colourful winks and whimsy fit perfectly with the absurdity of the farce. If you listen closely, you’ll also note that the music doesn’t fit the period but does fit the characters, with a short nod to Hello Dolly!, as well.

Experience the laughter for yourself as The Matchmaker plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 24, 2019. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and showtimes.

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