Review by Tatum Stafford
A familiar story to many theatre fans, Murray Music and Drama’s performance of ‘The Matchmaker’, the play upon which the iconic musical ‘Hello, Dolly!’ was based, was a delightful trip down memory lane with some fantastic performances by local actors.
The story centres on pompous businessman Horace Vandergelder who wishes to marry, and Dolly Levi, Yonkers’ most notorious ‘matchmaker’. Horace’s two shop clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, are longing to go on an adventure, and find companions in New York in Irene Malloy and Minnie Fay. Throw in Horace’s niece Ermengarde, her betrothed-to-be Ambrose Kemper, and several other quirky characters, and the 14-person ensemble is complete.
The entire cast were committed, and it was a real treat to watch them interact with each other within their characters. Karen Godfrey’s Dolly was joyful, and at many moments, she had the matinee audience eating out of the palm of her hand. Vaughn Lowe’s performance as Horace was confident, and Alan Gill and Steven Jones paired brilliantly as Cornelius and Barnaby, offering plenty of physical comedy and exchanging many a knowing glance.
Lori Anders was strong and charming as Irene Malloy, and Tess Withnell’s Minnie Fay was lovely. Abby Jennings had a difficult task in portraying Ermengarde, a character with a penchant for bursting into tears, but she was a clear audience favourite. Each female character in the play had meticulous hairstyling (with wigs by Mirage Makeup Artistry), but a few stray strands did make it difficult to see facial expressions on a few female characters throughout.
Kudos should also go to Carole Dhu’s short but memorable scenes as Gertrude and the Cook, Allen Isaac’s stunning Scottish accent, and Christin Treg’s hilarious scenework as the eccentric Flora Van Huysen.
This show marked the directorial debut of Rp van der Westhuizen, who has done a fantastic job in making this script feel fresh, funny, and slick in its staging. The myriad of sets (designed and constructed by Andy Peckover) were used very effectively, and projection design by Blake Williams brilliantly added to the atmosphere of each act changeover.
One of this production’s most impressive features is in its costuming. There were some gorgeous garments worn by each of the characters, but Dolly’s near-show-stopping dresses in purple, blue and red were clear audience favourites. Beautiful work by costume coordinator Tammy Peckover and her numerous assistants – the hats within Mrs Malloy’s shop were also lovely to look at during Act 2!
All in all, this is a very slick and enjoyable production of a theatre classic. Whether you’re a Hello Dolly tragic, or have never heard of Dolly Levi, I’m sure you’ll find something to love in this charming show.