Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Matchmaker
Asolo Rep

Also see Bill's review of Radio Golf

Peggy Roeder
The first production of Asolo Rep's repertory season is Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, perhaps better know to most of us in its musical version, Hello, Dolly!. The two versions are very different. The Matchmaker is a comedy with a great amount of honest heart, which frequently reaches the manic intensity of farce, while Jerry Herman turned the play into a razzmatazz musical with a great score, retaining a large helping of Wilder's heart. It is hard to see the Wilder original without Herman's wonderful songs coming to mind, but there is stronger plotting and the characters are richer with a few new ones such as Malachi Slack with fresh viewpoints about the goings on.

The Matchmaker would strain the budget of any company; the program lists 18 parts, but I am fairly certain I counted 20 bodies on stage at curtain calls, along with four settings and period costumes. Asolo Rep is the only company in this area capable of mounting this show. They also have a longstanding relationship with director Peter Amster who seems to specialize in period comedies: Recent Asolo productions include You Can't Take it With You, The Perfume Shop, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The brilliance of his direction here shows in the pacing; there are important monologues where characters speak directly to the audience which are allowed to breathe, while the ends of scenes where the farcical elements dominate are almost choreographed.

The always fabulous Asolo scenic department has outdone itself with the scenic designs of Russell Metheny. Lavish sets fly apart and new ones appear with the kind of theatrical effect that used to cause oohs and ahs not that long ago on Broadway. Gorgeous period attire by Virgil C. Johnson which still delineate the economic situation of the character, an important element of the script, plus brilliant lighting designs by Paul Miller complete the production.

Peggy Roeder, in her fifth season as guest artist, seems to live in the role of Dolly Levi. She is mother to the entire extended family of Horace Vandergelder, played by Steve Hendrickson. He is properly blustery but also shows that there is more to the man, in a part that is much more important than in the musical version. Buddy Haardt, Olivia Williamson, Owen Teague and Allie Henkel are the two juvenile couples, Cornelius Hackl & Irene Molloy and Barnaby Tucker & Minnie Fay, and all are delightful. It is amazing to be watching Mr. Teague grow up before my eyes; a few years ago he played children's parts in several Asolo productions—last spring he played a 13-year-old in Hero the musical—and now he is playing almost adult parts (Barnaby's age is given as 16). Company member Douglas Jones shines as Malachi Stack, a character 25 years or more younger than his actual age. Other fine supporting performances include Paul Herbig as Ambrose Kemper, Andrea Adnoff as his beloved Ermengarde, Brian Owen as barber Joe Scanlon and a Gypsy Musician, and Carolyn Michel as Miss Flora Van Huysen.

The Matchmaker is this year's "can't miss" production at Asolo Rep!

Asolo Repertory Theater presents The Matchmaker through April 11, 2015, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit

Cast (in order of appearance):
Horace Vandergelder: Steve Hendrickson*
Ambrose Kemper: Paul Herbig
Joe Scanlon/Gypsy Musician: Brian Owen
Gertrude: Tyla Abercrumbie*
Cornelius Hackl: Buddy Haardt*
Ermengarde: Andrea Adnoff
Malachi Stack: Douglas Jones*
Dolly Levi: Peggy Roeder*
Barnaby Tucker: Owen Teague*
Mrs. Malloy: Olivia Williamson
Minnie Fay: Allie Henkel
Cabman: David Breitbarth*
Rudolf: Matthew R. Olsen
August: Matt Andersen
Waiter: Michael Frishman
Waiter: Jory Murphy
Miss Flora Van Huysen: Carolyn Michel*
Miss Van Huysen's Cook: Gracie Lee Brown
*Members of Actor's Equity Association

Directed by Peter Amster
Scenic Design: Russell Metheny
Costume Design: Virgil C. Johnson
Lighting Design: Paul Miller
Sound Design: Matt Parker
Composer: Gregg Coffin
Hair/Wig & Make-Up Design: Michelle Hart
Voice & Dialect Coach: Patricia Delorey
Dramaturg: Lauryn E. Sasso
Stage Manager: Patrick Lanczki*
Production Stage Manager: Kelly A. Borgia*

Photo: Mary M. Sweetman

--William S. Oser