Hilarity and hijinks ensue as the characters in Thornton Wilder's romantic comedy The Matchmaker. Head to New York for adventure and find love instead. The production, directed by Chris Abrahamand set in the opulence of the Victorian period, begins previews for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Festival Theatre on May 12.
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Set in the 1800s, the play tells the story of Horace Vandergelder, a wealthy merchant with his eye ever fixed on the bottom line. The value of love evades him, even as he searches for a wife – but his matchmaker, Dolly Gallagher Levi, has her own plans for him.
"The Matchmaker affirms the beautiful folly of life and love, while at the same time avoiding sentimentality with a ten-foot pole," says Abrahamand. "Hiding out in the double takes, mistaken identities and reconciliations of The Matchmaker is an unmistakable sense of awe at the human spirit – in particular, but not exclusively, when Wilder is writing about young people. It's this sense of awe that makes the comedy of the piece shine with a special intensity."
The production's cast includes Tom McCamus as Horace Vandergelder and Seana McKenna as Dolly Gallagher Levi, with Laura Condlln as Irene Malloy, Mike Shara as Cornelius Hackl, Geraint Wyn Davies as Malachi Stack, Skye Brandon as Ambrose Kemper, Josh Epstein as Barnaby Tucker, Nora McLellan as Miss Flora Van Huysen, Cara Ricketts as Ermengarde and Andrea Runge as Minnie Fay.
"Wilder's comedy is a true twentieth-century classic," says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. "And like so many classics, it has not only inspired subsequent adaptation but was itself inspired by earlier works, including Molière's The Miser. It offers a perfect illustration of how the great works exist not in isolation but as part of a continuum that extends from the very dawn of drama to the present day.
"I am particularly delighted that Chris Abraham is making his Festival Theatre debut with this play, which actually deals with some serious issues and emotions beneath its seemingly frothy exterior. Chris has a remarkable way of developing a connection between the actors on stage and their audience. His deeply touching production of Michel Tremblay's For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again at the Tom Patterson Theatre in 2010, and the emotionally charged The Little Years, which he directed last season at the Studio Theatre, are both testaments to this extraordinary gift."
The Matchmaker is an apt choice for inclusion in the Festival's 60th season, since Stratford played a key role in the play's creation. Wilder originally wrote it in 1939, as The Merchant of Yonkers, but its Broadway run was brief. Then in the early 1950s, Stratford's inaugural artistic director, Tyrone Guthrie, persuaded Wilder to rewrite it. The result, retitled The Matchmaker, premièred at the Edinburgh Festival in 1953 and went on to become a hit both in the West End and on Broadway, where it earned Guthrie a Tony Award for Best Director.
The production's artistic team includes Designer Santo Loquasto, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Choreographer Jane Johanson, Dramaturge Robert Blacker, Dramaturge Jacob Gallagher-Ross and Stunt Coordinator Daniel Levinson.
The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's 2012 season runs until October 28, featuring Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street, The Matchmaker; Henry V; You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch and The War of 1812.