Freelancer and aspiring journalist from Adelaide. Visual Arts graduate & current journalism student. Fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, art & food. I also write for The Adelaidian // theadelaidian.net/author/georgina-tselekidis
A little adventure never hurt nobody
Funny is definitely an understatement when it comes to this production by Independent Theatre. The Matchmaker is a classic play that has a very long history dating back to 1835 in an earlier and very different adaptation of what it is today. Thornton Wilder rewrote and reconstructed the script which was a success at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and also featured on Broadway in 1955 as Hello Dolly!. It was later turned into a film starring Barbara Streisand and has been a popular production around the world ever since.
The story of The Matchmaker sees protagonist Dolly Gallagher Levi take centre stage as an 'arranger of things', with matchmaking her primary source of income. Bewildered by money, she sets her sights on local merchant Horace Vandergelder, who has hired her to find him a wife. However, as a lonely widow in Yonkers, Dolly has other plans to make him her husband. Mr Vandergelder on the other hand is a grumpy and very rich provision store owner who has worked his way to the top and sees the rest of society as fools, especially young people. In the meantime, he's willing to do whatever it takes to keep artist Ambrose Kemper away from his only niece Ermengarde. When Dolly agrees to help both of them elope to New York City, it seems everyone is keen for a little adventure, even the predictable Mr Vandergelder. He wants to marry New York milliner Irene Molloy and Dolly insists on him meeting her 'pretend' friend Miss Ernestina Simple. With this, the two entertaining protagonist 'chief store clerks' Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker decide to take advantage of Mr Vandergelder's absence by using the minimal money they have on a train ticket to the big apple, which changes their lives forever. They have three things to tick off their bucket list - have an adventure, nearly get arrested and to kiss a girl for the first time. Let's just say they manage to complete all of these in a humorous compilation of slap-stick comedy.
Director Rob Crosser puts together a highly entertaining production that stays true to Wilder's tale whilst giving it its own unique quality. The actors are perfectly suited to each character, as they slip into a different world successfully and without any trouble. Smooth scene transitions, cohesive character vocals and excellent staging techniques make The Matchmaker faultless. Rob's small yet engaging and impressive stint in the opening act as Joe Scanlon actually made me wonder whether we'd be seeing more of him later on in the show.
From the get go, the audience is immediately drawn in by Mr Vandergelder's (David Roach) strong vocals as he sits in his living room forbidding Ambrose Kemper to see his niece. David Roach is a founding member of Independent Theatre and has played in many leading roles throughout his acting career, he also designed The Matchmaker alongside director Rob Crosser. His ability to seize our attention in an animated fashion conveys his extensive experience on stage, as he portrays Mr Vandergelder's pompous attitude well, making him funnier than expected.
Bronwyn Ruciak as Dolly Galagher has been involved with Independent Theatre for many years, which is evident as she captivates the crowd. An incredibly loveable character, Bronwyn embraces Dolly's quirks with her Jersey style accent and humorous personality as she makes it her mission to win the heart of Mr Vandergelder. Her dynamism allows her to connect with the audience on many levels, particularly when she talks about 'rejoining the human race', which changes the tone of the evening to evoke an almost sentimental and emotive message that resonates on a personal level.
Actors to watch out for are Will Cox as Cornelius Hackl and Kyle Hall as Barnaby Tucker whose onstage presence work in harmony with one another. Equally entertaining, these two guys were responsible for a majority of the crowds laughs. They took control and stepped inside the world of the two young store workers who yearned for adventure, making it difficult to resist their talent that will undoubtedly see these two actors go far in the near future. Will Cox's passion and enthusiasm shines when he's introduced during act one, but it's towards the second half of the show that we see him evolve. Kyle Hall similarly flourishes on stage as the production goes on. A side kick to Cornelius, he beguiles us with an unrivaled energy from the beginning right down to his last closing moment as he speaks of the moral of the story.
Georgia Penglis, as hat shop owner Irene Molloy, steals our hearts with her bright and vivacious flair that makes her a stand out on stage. She is currently in her fourth year of working with Independent Theatre and has played a variety of roles including Mary Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. As her relationship with Cornelius grows in The Matchmaker, we see a great chemistry between the actors that is an extreme pleasure to watch. Stephen Schofield as Andrew Kemper, Emma Bleby as Ermengade, Pam O' Grady as Miss Van Huyse, Grace Berwald as Minnie Fay and Andrew Steuart as Malachi Stack are also worth noting, although their time on stage is scarce they still embrace every moment, leaving a great impression amongst the crowd long after they exit the stage.
The initial scene was an instant indicator of what was in store, with immediate laughs all around. From the set construction, costume, hair and make-up, Americanized accents and the actors' pure talent and stage presence, we were taken back in time to a vintage era that once was. The intimate space of the Goodwood Institute Theatre managed to enhance this bygone and otherworldly feel by its antique charm. A massive congratulations to all of the cast of The Matchmaker who left the crowd giggling right to the very end, and for teaching us that a little adventure is good for the soul.
The Matchmaker will be playing at the Goodwood Institute on Goodwood Road until August 13. Tickets can be purchased here.