Reviewer: Herbert Simpson

Herbert Simpson

Stratford Festival 2012: The Matchmaker is a Delicious Lesson on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Money

Reviewed by Herbert Simpson

Photo: Stratford Festival. I’ve loved this play ever since I saw the incomparable Ruth Gordon enchant her audience and everyone on stage in it as Dolly Levi some 56 years ago. What I did not know was that Wilder completed it in Stratford, Ontario when

Tyrone Guthrie invited him to work there on revising his unsuccessful source-play, The Merchant of Yonkers. In fact, Guthrie, Stratford’s founding director, won a Tony Award for best direction on Broadway with The Matchmaker. It now plays less often than the musical adapted from it, Hello, Dolly! ; but much of Wilder’s beloved wit and even a lot of his madcap farcical comedy get lost in the musical.

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The Stratford Festival 2012: 42nd Street is Gaudy good fun

Reviewed by Herbert Simpson

dale88fc48d94231b65549111ee2ebfe Photo: David Hou

Ok, it’s a corny show. But it’s gaudy good fun. This ultimate Broadway showbiz story, 42nd Street came back from a 1933 blockbuster film starring Ruby Keeler in Busby Berkeley’s elaborate dance routines and became a megahit musical, recreating its nostalgia and melodrama onstage. Still about becoming a star and creating a hit show, it also re-established tap dancing as a creative Broadway show element after tap had been dropped from new shows for decades.  42nd Street ran for nine years on Broadway and re-introduced that kitschy line, “You’re going out there a youngster. But you’ve got to come back a star!” It also became a tragic Broadway legend on opening night when producer David Merrick had to stop the raucous final applause to announce that its legendary director/choreographer Gower Champion had succumbed to cancer in his hotel room just a few hours before.

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Stratford Festival : You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

Reviewed by Herbert Simpson

Archness Alert: If you love the comic strip Peanuts and agree with this show’s program-book writers that it is art to be likened to Dickens, Balzac and Chaplin, this is the musical show for you.  If, however, you’re not a fan of cutesy, repetitive comic-pages cartoon stories – like Cathy, Beetle Bailey, or in this case, Peanuts, you may find this simple re-enactment of the strip the equivalent of a a ride on a small tricycle when you’ve paid for a limousine.  Stratford’s staging is impeccable and splendidly cast.  Director/choreographer Donna Feore makes it play like a dream-party with masterful entertainment. But I guess I’m too old and diabetic to be fed cotton candy.  Pogo, Doonesbury, si; but this is just the cartoon’s same old bland routines played out.

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The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, The Musical.

Reviewed by Herbert Simpson

matchmaker1c95daf2-b615-4a46-9f52-c76bfa6e0424 I’ve loved this play ever since I saw the incomparable Ruth Gordon enchant her audience and everyone on stage in it as Dolly Levi some 56 years ago. What I did not know was that Wilder completed it in Stratford, Ontario when

Tyrone Guthrie invited him to work there on revising his unsuccessful source-play, The Merchant of Yonkers. In fact, Guthrie, Stratford’s founding director, won a Tony Award for best direction on Broadway with The Matchmaker. It now plays less often than the musical adapted from it, Hello, Dolly! ; but much of Wilder’s beloved wit and even a lot of his madcap farcical comedy get lost in the musical.

(more…)