Most people are familiar with Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman's popular musical "Hello, Dolly," which has starred such luminaries as Carol Channing and Barbra Streisand. But many might not be as familiar with the Thornton Wilder comedy that spawned the charismatic Dolly Levy in the first place. Role Players Ensemble Theatre currently presents an opportunity to see the original play, "The Matchmaker," playing through Feb. 8 at Danville's Village Theatre.
Set at the turn of the 20th century, "The Matchmaker" tells of a widow who brokers marriages and other transactions in Yonkers, N.Y. But when the wealthy Horace Vandergelder hires the widow to find him a wife, she decides to make herself his perfect match. Vandergelder's naive young niece and her interest in a young artist add to the merriment, as does a host of colorful characters, mistaken identities and more.
Eric Fraisher Hayes directs Role Players' fun production, with Melynda Kiring a wonderfully sensitive Dolly and John Blytt as the blustering Horace. The large cast handles the myriad farcical situations well, with hilarious performances by Joe Fitzgerald as Malachi and the versatile Dana Lewenthal as Flora and Gertrude. The young innocent lovers (Monica Ammerman and Ben Day) provide a nice contrast to the other young people (Mark Frazier, Laura Melton, Lindsey Schmeltzer and Dallas Carter) who are looking for an adventure.
Hayes has set up some very funny scenes that would be more effective played at a faster pace and with more exaggeration. Kudos for the very funny bits that keep the audience entertained during the quick scene changes and to costume designer Lisa Danz, who has outdone herself with beautiful period costumes that look splendid on Bo Golden's set.
There's still time to attend the special Jan. 25 performance, where a real matchmaker will be available to pair up audience members. Those interested can fill out surveys before the show with matchmaker Anni Powers, who will then perform her magic at intermission. A reception follows the play at nearby Faz restaurant. For tickets to any of the performances through Feb. 8, call 925-312-3400 or go to www.roleplayersensemble.com.
Robin Taylor, the artistic associate at Role Players as well as a voice and acting teacher, will perform on Jan. 24 in "Are You Married? A Musical Outing."
Taylor wrote the solo autobiographical piece, which deals with the dilemma of a male couple when one partner falls ill. Taylor will play 32 characters, including blackmailing relatives, a corrupt lawyer, negligent doctors and a few well-placed saints. The show also includes 10 songs by such composers as Foster, Berlin, Beethoven and Handel.
"It's a tale of tears, tunes, laughs and, finally, triumph," Taylor said.
The show takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Danville Congregational Church, 989 San Ramon Valley Blvd., in Danville. Donations will be accepted at the door, with net proceeds benefiting Marriage Equality, USA.
In a rather interesting twist of fate, the first full-run show Onstage will produce at its new venue, The Martinez Campbell Theater, deals with a satirical nun in "The Book of Liz," playing Jan. 31 through Feb. 15.
When the Willows first opened the same venue many years ago, it also presented a series of "Nunsense" shows dealing with the Little Sisters of Hoboken. While the Willows Theatre Company may be history, it seems the nuns have made a return visit.
In Amy and David Sedaris' play "The Book of Liz," Sister Donderstock feels unappreciated despite the fact her delicious cheese balls support her entire religious community. She decides to disappear for a while and experience the outside world. Of course, lots of comedy ensues from the crazy characters she meets.
Directed by Edwin Peabody, the show features Beth Chastain (Donderstock), Randall Nott (the Rev. Tollhouse), Joseph Hirsch (Brother Brightbee) and Helen Means (Sister Butterworth). The show plays Fridays at 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Feb. 2 and 9 and a Thursday show on Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. For tickets, call 925-518-3277 or email email@example.com.
John Bisceglie auditions a new musical from the creators of "SF Follies" and "Forever Broadway" on Feb. 1 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The new musical revue celebrates the contemporary Broadway musical and will perform at the Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco.
Auditions will be held at the King George Hotel, 334 Mason St. in San Francisco. For more information, go to www.sffollies.com.
Contact Sally Hogarty at firstname.lastname@example.org