The Matchmaker

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The Matchmaker is a comedy by Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)[1].

The original text

The play is an adaptation of Wilder's own play, The Merchant of Yonkers, done at the request of the Edinburgh Festival director Tyrone Guthrie. Wilder's original had been based on A Day Well Spent, a 1835 one-act play by John Oxenford, and Einen Jux will er sich machen, Johann Nestroy's Austrian expansion and adaptation of the English play.

First performed in Edinburgh, the play then opened at Theatre Royal Haymarket on November 4, 1954, followed by an American production by David Merrick that opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre, later transferring to the Booth to complete its run of 486 performances.

In this version Wilder focuses on a minor character, Dolly Gallagher Levi, a strong-willed matchmaker, as she travels to Yonkers, New York, to find a match for the miserly "well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder.

The play was a success at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London's West End before finally Ruth Gordon's performance in the title role earned her a Tony Award nomination as Best Actress; Guthrie won as Best Director.

Translations and adaptations

In 1958 a film version of Wilder's play was produced, featuring Claire Booth, Anthony Perkins, Shirley MacLean and Paul Ford.[2]

In 1964, the play enjoyed yet another incarnation in Jerry Herman's award-winning musical, Hello, Dolly!, produced by David Merrick, the same producer who had done the 1955 Broadway production of The Matchmaker.

Performance history in South Africa

1958: In South Africa the play was produced by the Cockpit Players at the Hofmeyr Theatre, November 1958, directed by Leonard Schach, starring Marjorie Gordon as Dolly Levi, John McKelvey, Nigel Hawthorne, Michael McGovern, Robert Haber, Walter Glennie, Christina Greig, Raymond Williams, Zoë Randall and Heather Lloyd-Jones.


Inskip, 1977. p 122

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