Tony Award nominee, Northwestern alumna performs in Chicago production of ‘The Matchmaker’


Source: Liz Lauren

Kristine Nielsen (Communication ‘77) (left) rehearses for the Goodman Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Matchmaker.” The Tony award nominee will star in the production that starts this weekend.

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter


Making her first appearance in Chicago since graduating from Northwestern, Tony Award nominee Kristine Nielsen will star in “The Matchmaker” at the Goodman Theatre starting this weekend.

The play, which inspired the hit musical “Hello, Dolly,” tells the story of Dolly Levi, a widowed woman who becomes a relationship matchmaker in 1896 in New York City. Nielsen (Communication ‘77) plays the role of Levi, an Irish immigrant who is trying to survive and figure out how to live in a world dominated by men.

“In a sense, she figures out that the way to make herself happy is to marry a man that’s well-to-do, that will fight with her and put life back in her,” Nielsen said. “She describes herself as an artist, as a painter who fixes the world, makes it more livable.”

Nielsen has appeared on Broadway multiple times and received a Tony award nomination in 2013 for her role as Sonia in Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

Lawrence DiStasi (Communication ‘88) joins Nielsen as a cast member of “The Matchmaker.” He said he admires Nielsen’s talent and how she is willing to make big acting choices on stage.

“She’s really willing to stick her neck out,” DiStasi said. “She really makes use of the rehearsal time in an impressive and brave way.”

The play deals with the issue of money and the disparity between different social classes. DiStasi’s character represents the poor, downtrodden side of society, while the lead male character, Horace Vandergelder, is a very wealthy, greedy and unpleasant person, DiStasi said.

Although “The Matchmaker” was originally produced in the 1950s, the themes it presents are still relevant to the contemporary world, said Neena Arndt, dramaturg for the production. Her role is to make sure everything in the play is historically accurate.

She said this version of the play will be very different than the original 1950s production as the cast includes several actors of color, one transgender actor and one actress with a disability.

“In the past, it was sort of assumed that people in plays were white, able-bodied and weren’t transgender,” Arndt said. “I’m excited to use this play to explore our present and the diversity that has always been present in human culture but has not always been represented onstage.”

Nielsen added that the play has a dark soul, but said it is inherently American in nature and very optimistic.

“It has a rich fabric of characters that are very American in the sense of all the different walks of life,” Nielsen said. “People are desperate, but also the opportunities are so rich for them that they ultimately choose the right doors, they listen to their inner voices and become happy, and it’s very rewarding in that way.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @jenniferhepp97