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BWW CD Reviews: MATILDA (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is Darkly Intriguing

BWW CD Reviews: MATILDA (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is Darkly IntriguingWhen Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly's musical MATILDA, based on Roald Dahl's novel by the same name, first leapt across the pond most assumed that the Broadway cast would not get a cast recording. However, this production has been full of surprise announcements like Bertie Carvel reprising his role as Miss Trunchbull and the addition of an overture and pre-show curtain. Garnering positive notices when it opened on Broadway, the MATILDA (Original Broadway Cast Recording) does a great job capturing the spirit of the clever and spunky show.

The star of the musical is Tim Minchin's sharp wit in the lyrics. Lyrics in numbers like "Loud" and "Telly" incisively criticize our views on what makes us worthy of attention and how we value knowledge. Likewise, as we fear hurting feelings in modern American society, every child is given a trophy when they participate in a sporting event or contest. Our children are all told that they are something exceptional. Here, Tim Minchin steps in to poke fun at these beliefs, especially in numbers like "Miracle" (cut into three parts for the album). The pervasive understanding of the average claiming to be extraordinary while being confronted with gifted uniqueness makes many of Tim Minchin's lyrics interesting and satisfying on a intellectual level.

On the other hand, my largest complaint with the album is Tim Minchin's score itself. Overall, it's just not very memorable. Listening to album, I enjoy the numbers. However, only two songs are particularly catchy tunes. Spinning this disc off and on for a couple of weeks, I find that "Miracle" and "When I Grow Up" stick with me for days after hearing the album. I unconsciously hum the infectious hooks and choruses at random. I just wish that other songs followed suit. My favorite moments on the album are "The Hammer," "Bruce," "The Smell of Rebellion," and "Revolting Children," but they simply aren't the inescapable and unforgettable songs that they should be.

One of the album's most unique attributes is its dark timbre. The cheeky lyrics and turbulent orchestrations present music that doesn't sound like your typical kid's show. Throughout the album there are intense and ominous chords of foreboding that chill listeners to the core. This approach, much in line with Roald Dahl's original novel, adds a nice air of mystery and suspense to the recording.

The vocals on the album do not disappoint. Each of the four Matildas from the Original Broadway Cast get moments to shine on the recording. Bailey Ryon on "Miracle: Part 3," "When I Grow Up," and "The Trick Started Well... (Story 3)," Sophia Gennusa's "Naughty," Milly Shapiro on "Once Upon a Time... (Story 1)" and "Quiet," and Oona Laurence on "The Great Day Arrived... (Story 2)" and "I'm Here (Story 4)," and all four girls on the deluxe edition's "Naughty" bonus track are wonderfully charming. Each one emotes in a way that makes the listeners root for Matilda.

Bertie Carvel's "The Hammer" and "The Smell of Rebellion" are true treasures on the disc. He plays his Miss Trunchbull much like the villain in a holiday Panto show. He manipulates his vocals into a twisted and nasal tonality that fits the nasty and cruel character perfectly. Through this slimy voice, Bertie Carvel still manages to find pitch and land the notes well. Some longer notes are intentionally warbled, adding another layer of unease to the characterization.

Other standouts on the album are Lesli Margherita's selfish Mrs. Wormword on the salsa infused number "Loud," Lauren Ward's sweetly charismatic Miss Honey on saccharine numbers like "This Little Girl" and "My House," and Gabriel Ebert and Taylor Trensch as the despicable Mr. Wormwood and Michael Wormwood on "Telly."

Having not seen MATILDA on stage myself, the album serves as great preview for the musical. Listening to the recording, I get lost in the music and my desire to see the musical grows. I'm curious to see how numbers are staged and lit. I also anticipate the moments not captured on the recording. While MATILDA (Original Broadway Cast Recording) may not be the best cast album I've heard, it is still an intriguing disc that is fun to listen to.

MATILDA (Original Broadway Cast Recording), released by Broadway Records and Yellow Sound Label, is now available in both standard (CD and digital) and deluxe (iTunes only) editions. The album can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.

For information about other theatrical recording releases, click here.

Photo courtesy of Broadway Records and Yellow Sound Label.

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