I am continuing my dive through the plays that once belonged to my parents, former theatre nerds and aspiring stage actors, and the most interesting part is discovering that a lot of these plays (even ones I’ve never heard of) have been Broadway hits or even Hollywood Oscar winners (see: Butterflies are Free).
The Matchmaker has a long and winding history in theatre and film- in 1938 it was published as a re-write of several earlier (1835, 1842, 1938) comedies, under the title “The Merchant of Yonkers”. In 1954, the director Tyrone Guthrie (he of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, as well as founder of Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare festival) wanted to do a theatrical run, and so Wilder rejigged it under the name “The Matchmaker”. The play was performed with Ruth Gordon (Oscar winner for Rosemary’s Baby) in a main role, which won her a Best Actress Tony nomination and Guthrie a Best Director Tony. The play was turned into a movie in 1958, starring Anthony Perkins and Shirley MacLaine. In 1964, the play was rejigged as a musical and retitled “Hello Dolly”; Carol Channing performed in that theatre run. Finally, in 1969 it become a Barbra Streisand film under the Hello Dolly moniker!
The plot is classic screwball comedy, with outrageous and bumbling characters being drawn into coincidental encounters. Horace Vandergelder, a miserly and cranky (but rich!) Yonkers businessman has set his sights on remarriage to Mrs Molloy, a New York hat shop owner, and he is off to the city to woo her. Vandergelder’s two clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, are itching to get away from their boss for a night, and are also headed to the Big City to have an adventure. Vandergelder’s niece, Ermengarde, wants to marry her penniless artist beau, Ambrose Kemper, but lacks the courage to defy her uncle’s wishes- the two of them are headed to New York to maybe make a break for it. Finally we have Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widowed matchmaker, who is also heading to New York, all the time pulling strings that will result in happiness and marriages all around.
This was a light, fun read- I can see why it kept getting updated for the times. Now I just need to find out which streaming service carries the Streisand movie…