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Colony Theatre’s production of "Matchmaker" is elegant
Review by David Rambo, Enjoy!, Glendale News-Press

The Colony Studio Theatre makes the 100th anniversary of the great American dramatist Thornton Wilder with a handsome and elegant production of his comedy, "The Matchmaker." Before becoming better known in its ubiquitous musical version, "Hello, Dolly!" the play long held a special place in the hearts of theatregoers and its author.

Indeed, Wilder first wrote it in 1938 as "The Merchant of Yonkers," an adaptation of a German comedy by Johann Nestroy (which was also later adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company by Tom Stoppard as the farce, "On The Razzle."

Yonkers’ merchant was Horace Vandergelder, a rich man of 60 who ventures into New York City in the 1890s to woo an attractive widow, Mrs. Molloy, at her millinery shop. Vandergelder’s clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, also sneak into town the same day, encounter their boss and his sweetheart, and complications ensue.

At the Colony, director Todd Nielsen sets his production within designer John Patrick’s Gay 90s gingerbread bandstand, which is ingeniously and entertainingly adapted in four choreographed musical vignettes.
Nielsen has directed Wilder before here ("The Skin of Our Teeth"), as well as several award-winning musicals. This production works best when Nielsen’s musical instincts mesh with Wilder’s humor and character conflicts.
But "The Matchmaker" is neither madcap farce nor musical comedy. Occasionally, Nielsen imposes these sensibilities on the play. The more human comedy then falls flat, and the players are left working too hard without a payoff.

Don’t take that to mean "The Matchmaker" is without comedy. This is a play in which life — and laughter — are rediscovered. It’s rejuvenating for both its characters and the audience.

In red wig and heavy eye shadow, Jodi Carlisle uncannily resembles Ginger Rogers, as the musical Dolly (in 1965, when she replaced Carol Channing). Carlisle’s rich voice and warmth soften the busyness with which she plays our literature’s best-known busybody.

Nielsen gets some marvelous work from his supporting cast, notably Jodi Rosenbaum as Ermengarde, Caren Saiet as the giggly Minnie Fay, Darin Anthony as Barnaby, Kurt Boesen, Robert Stephan Ryan and Scott Vance entertain in multiple roles.
 

Copyright Glendale News-Press Review
Reprinted with Permission
The Matchmaker at the Colony Theatre