BWW Review: MATILDA at Bass Performance Hall
If you've missed the 1996 film or Roald Dohl's book of the same title, MATILDA is a gifted young girl who had the misfortune of being born to a pair of dysfunctional and distracted adults. Once Matilda finally enters school, her principal is an androgynous Amazon with distaste for reading, writing and revolting children. Fortunately, Matilda's classroom teacher, Miss Honey, sees Matilda's special ability and shows her the love that is absent from her home life. Determined to change her own story, Matilda stands up to her and her friends' bullies (through a little naughtiness) and improves the lives of those around her, while also finding what has been missing from her life - a home.
On Wednesday night, Jaime MacLean, who alternates the role with two other pocket-sized personalities, played the title role. MacLean managed to win the hearts of the packed theatre in her ability to project a nuanced performance without ever giving off the over-the-top energy put on by many adolescent actors. With every note and sharp movement perfectly placed, MacLean was ideal casting for the challenging task. Only Miss Trunchbull, wickedly played by Dan Chameroy, could appropriately upstage the young star with a hilariously disturbing zeal.
Although the musical's script (by Dennis Kelly) and score (by Tim Minchin) are impeccably written, it is Matthew Warchus' direction and, more importantly, Peter Darling's choreography that make MATILDA such an eye-caching, engaging work of art. Rarely does a moment go by that the deliberately in-your-face staging of the show isn't spectacularly enhancing the already witty text. While the show will inevitably succeed in regional and community theatres, it will be a challenge to improve upon the physical footprint of Warchus and Darling's original work.
Though the show impressively manages to engage and entertain guests of all ages, it never attempts to Disney-fy the plot, allowing and inviting the audience down MATILDA's dark path without a sugary sweet theme song and tuneful inanimate objects. The production hardly crosses the line that might give younger guests nightmares, but the show is best recommended for those willing and able to follow a 2.5 hour storyline. If your kids don't fit that mold, call a babysitter and book your tickets, because this tour and this cast are not to be missed.
Matilda runs through Sunday June 18th. Tickets and more details are available at www.BassHall.com.