An old fashioned farce

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Students in Kelly Gregersen’s dramatic literature class have been begging him to select Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” as an upcoming play.After a year spent rallying fellow classmates, the student-led production will open this weekend.

“A lot of the senior drama students asked for the show,” Gregersen said. “When the kids keep requesting something, it really brings a nice energy to the piece.”

The musical is set in 1880s New York City and Yonkers, where grouchy store owner Horace Vandergelder refuses to let his niece marry the poor artist she loves. Meanwhile, he himself is tired of being lonely and plans to re-marry, using the talents of local matchmaker Dolly Levi, who is scheming to wed Vandergelder at the same time she pretends to find him a suitable bride.

The story is the basis for the musical, “Hello, Dolly!” which ran for years on Broadway and is still one of its longest-ever running shows.

“It’s a really cute story,” said Gregersen. “If people like, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ they will know the characters, and the story will be very familiar.”

Gregersen added that he is a big fan of Wilder’s work, and that the famous playwright received a Pulitzer Prize for writing in two different formats, a play and a novel.

“This play is a fun, lighthearted piece,” he said. “There is a lot of truth built into a romantic comedy. It’s a nice, fast-paced farce.”

The play requires a different set for each act, including a curtain, flying, rolling and permanent sets.

“Each act has its very own unique look,” Gregersen said. “This will be a great evening of good, wholesome family entertainment.”

Coordinating a play requires a dependable assistant director as well as director.

Senior Lauren Tofell is serving in that role for the first time.

“I’m not typically on the teaching side of things,” she said. “I’m usually on the acting side. I’ve now been given a lot more of a leadership role and I’m kind of surprised by my abilities.”

Tofell’s favorite aspect of her new role is the variety.

“I like walking in the same show every day and it’s different every time,” she said.

Senior Jessica Hatton plays Dolly, her first lead role in a WHS production.

“I did community theater for six years but chose to quit that and really focus on high school shows instead,” she said. “It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The people here are like family, especially with a smaller cast like this.”

She describes her character as “always curious, always a meddler, very manipulative and a good liar.”“But everyone loves her,” Hatton said. “And I have worshipped her since I was 13. I’m hoping people come to the play and enjoy her as much as I do. This has been one of the best experiences of my life.”

Senior Jack Lively portrays the penny-pinching Horace Vandergelder.

“He’s a rich man trying to find love again,” he said. “He likes the feeling of foolishness that comes with being in love and also wants to have order in his house. Since it is the 1880s, he seems to think that is a woman’s job.”

It is Lively’s first lead role in a WHS production.

“It’s been interesting,” he said. “There are a lot of lines I need to remember, and a lot of on-stage time. But I’ve really enjoyed the presence of everyone here. They are like a big family to me.”

Lively added his favorite aspect of the play has been using emotion to bring out his character.

“At first, he seems really grouchy, but by the end, you see him as a man who is looking for love and has a really soft spot,” he said.