— Seven people with Westside ties, including former longtime Ben Davis High School faculty member Joe Cook, are cast members in the all-volunteer Garfield Shakespeare Company's spring presentation of "The Matchmaker," the Thornton Wilder play that inspired the stage and film musical "Hello, Dolly!"
In 1890's Yonkers, the rich merchant and widower Horace Vandergelder decides to remarry, so he hires matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi to find him a suitable bride in New York City. At the same time, his niece Ermengarde is talked into running away with her artist boyfriend, Ambrose, while Vandergelder's clerks Cornelius and Barnaby use the absence of the boss as an excuse to close the store and go to the city for an adventure. By coincidence common to farce, the clerks meet Irene Molloy, a widow and hat store owner whom Vandergelder has courted, and her assistant Minnie Fay. The entire group winds up at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant where dinner, mistaken identities, and general mayhem ensue. Finally, through the efforts of Mrs. Levi, Vandergelder finds his bride, and two other couples plan marriage as well.
The play is directed by Cook, an Indiana State University alumnus, who has 40 years of experience in community theater in Central Indiana. He taught Latin, Spanish, and social studies at Ben Davis High School from 1968 to 1996. He started three Central Indiana theater companies that are still in operation - Hendricks Civic Theatre and Spotlight Players (Beech Grove), in addition to GSC.
Cast members in "The Matchmaker" with Westside ties are:
- Chris Burton, a Decatur Central High School graduate, who not only plays con-man-with-a-heart Malachi Stack but also is the play's assistant director. Burton, who still lives in Decatur Township in Marion County, is a 2009 graduate of DePauw University, where he majored in theater and had roles in more than a half-dozen theater productions. He is audio and visual engineer for CAB Productions, a family business based in Indianapolis, and also works at Northwest Radiology Network in Indianapolis.
- Gan Baker, Mooresville, who plays the ever-depressed Flora Van Huysen, a friend of Dolly's and Vandergelder's late wife. Baker, a retired Mooresville elementary school teacher, has performed in Hendricks Civic Theater ("Wrinkled Reels" and "Wrinkled Rebellion") and has appeared in productions for Footlite Musicals ("Annie") and Merry MAC Players in Martinsville ("Southern Hospitality").
- Laura Madden, Plainfield, who plays Ermengarde, who plays the niece of Vandergelder. Madden, an alumna of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting Summer Conservatory in New York City, appeared as Judy Sears in "Trouble in Mind," Mrs. Dubose in "To Kill a Mockingbird," and Clytemnestra in "The Oresteia," all productions of Northern Kentucky University, her alma mater.
- Justin Monts, Mooresville, a Monrovia High School graduate. Monts, who is taking acting classes at IUPUI, plays Barnaby, a clerk in Vandergelder's store who sneaks out to New York City with fellow clerk Cornelius Hackl to find adventure - and their first kiss from a woman. This is Monts' first acting role.
- Robert Routier, Plainfield, who plays Ambrose Kemper, an artist who wants to marry Ermengarde, a match that her uncle opposes. Routier is a graduate of Southport High School.
- Monica Verdouw, Plainfield, who plays Minnie Fay, an assistant in the hat store operated by Irene Molloy. Verdouw performed in two plays at Decatur Central High School - "Romeo and Juliet Blues" (Prince Escalus) and "The Crucible" (Sara Good).
In the lead roles of Dolly Gallagher Levi and Horace Vandergelder are Laura Kelley, of Irvington, and Jonathan Kratzner, of Bloomington, both of whom are making their GSC debuts.
"The Matchmaker" marks Burton's second production with GSC; in last fall's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," he also helped direct and played Peter Quince, leader of the Rude Mechanicals troupe and author of "Pyramus and Thisbe," the "play within a play" performed not-so-smoothly during the wedding celebration for Theseus and Hippolyta. "The Matchmaker" marks the Garfield Shakespeare Company debuts for Baker, Madden, Monts, Routier, and Verdouw.
It also marks the second time, since forming in the mid-2000s, that GSC has diverted from Shakespeare in one of its two annual productions. In spring 2011, the troupe performed Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," the play that inspired the stage and motion picture musical "My Fair Lady." It comes as the musical version - "Hello, Dolly!" - nears its 50th anniversary observance. The show opened on Broadway in 1964, and the Dolly role has been played on stage by such notable actresses as Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Martha Rae, Pearl Bailey, Ethel Merman, and Phyllis Diller. In the 1969 motion picture adaptation, Barbra Streisand played the Dolly role.
"The Matchmaker" will be performed at the Garfield Part Arts Center, 2432 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis, which is in Garfield Park. Show times and dates are 7 p.m. March 8-9 and 15-16 and 2:30 p.m. March 17. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. The arts center asks people planning to attend to call the venue ahead of time, during normal business hours, to secure seating. The center's phone number is 327-7135. Its hours of operation are 4-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.