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New York’s Most Famous Matchmaker

Professional match making services have become very popular in recent years, especially in big cities like New York.

But probably the most famous New York matchmaker of all time is Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, a fictional character who was most memorably portrayed by Carol Channing in the 1964 Broadway musical comedy “Hello, Dolly!”

“Hello, Dolly!” is set in the New York of the 1880s. Dolly is a fiftish widow whose husband has recently died, leaving her penniless. She supports herself, in part, by being a matchmaker. The play revolves around her efforts to find a match for millionaire merchant Horace Vandergelder, the richest man in Yonkers – except that her real intent is to marry him herself. The plot involves a maze of farcical twists and turns and subplots, ending with Vandergelder’s proposal to Dolly.

“Hello, Dolly!” is based on a book by Thornton Wilder, one of America’s most well-known writers. Wilder wrote the book in 1938 and titled it “The Merchant of Yonkers.” At that time it was produced as a play on Broadway, but was a miserable failure.

In 1954, director Tyrone Guthrie expressed an interest in remaking the play. Wilder revised it and retitled it “The Matchmaker.” The comedy opened in New York on August 12, 1955, and enjoyed a respectable run on Broadway. Translations of “The Matchmaker” were also very popular in Europe.

But it wasn’t until 1964, when Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart added songs and dance numbers to turn the play into a musical, cast Channing in the title role, and changed the name to “Hello, Dolly!” that Wilder’s 1938 creation finally received the acclaim that has made it made it a classic. The audience loved Channing, who made her appearance on stage wearing a carrot-colored wig and “false eyelashes fluttering over her large, expressive eyes. “Hello, Dolly!” was a smash hit, and became the longest-running Broadway musical up until that time. It received ten Tony awards and was named Best Musical of the Year in 1963-64.

In 1969 Hollywood miscast a young Barbra Streisand as Dolly in the movie version of “Hello, Dolly!” The movie was a disaster. Up through the 1960’s, musicals had become very popular at the box office, but since then there have been few successes. Some critics believe Streisand’s “Hello, Dolly!” was one of the disasters that helped kill the musical movie.

In the 1990s, “The Matchmaker” was revived in an off-Broadway production starring Andrea Martin. In 2002 it was nominated for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play by the Outer Critics Circle, but lost out to “The Dazzle.” Chances are, however, that this isn’t the last time Dolly will appear on stage; surely New York’s most famous matchmaker will be just as appealing to future generations as she has been to past generations.


About the Author: Independent Author in Thailand




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