BWW Review: MATILDA at Olney Theatre Center- A Wondrous Musical Fit for Families to Enjoy
Let me admit when I saw MATILDA on Broadway in 2013 (winner of 5 Tony Awards), I did not enjoy it. I just could not understand the character of the buffoon Miss Trunchbell, the Olympian hammer throwing athletic principal of Matilda's school. He was the villain of all villains.
Well, I was surprised to say I really enjoyed the Olney Theatre Center's production of MATILDA much more. It helps that it is performed in the more intimate 500 seat space versus a huge Broadway house.
Based on the hit children's novel by Roald Dahl, the young "Matilda" is called a "boy" by her father, is made fun of by reading voraciously, her parents cannot understand why she doesn't watch TV like her brother, and is basically ignored. She eventually finds solace by her school teacher, the superb Felicia Curry. She nails her solo near the end, "My House". It is thrilling. Matilda finds a friend and confidant in the librarian, Mrs. Phelps (the terrific Rayanne Gonzales) who patiently listens to all of "Matilda's" stories.
The key character here though is the principal of her school, "Miss Truchbull" played by the villainous and amazingly talented Tom Story (the character is always in drag) who looks menancing even in his gym shorts, displays a mean cartwheel, swirls a young girl by her pigtails, and force feeds a male student chocolate cake until he vomits. He reminded me on the Disney villain Cruella de Vil. Yet he was charming.
Making his Olney Theatre Directorial debut, Peter Flynn, has done a masterful job and pulling together this complex musical with a superb ensemble.
One needs a young actress to play this magical, genius of a five-year old and Emiko Dunn fits the bill. With wonderful comic timing and a belt of a voice she imbues "Matilda" with pizazz and zest. Her three solos, "Naughty", "The Smell of Rebellion", and "Quiet" are wonderful. She has a great future on the stage.
The children (some young and some not so young) are all wonderful. "When I Grow Up" is just plain spectacular as the children enjoy the four swings on the stage.
Playing Matilda's parents are Christopher Michael Richardson (resplendent in the ugliest plaid suit ever invented, thanks to Costume Designer Pei Lee) and Tracy Lynn Olivera, who is obsessed with dancing and her partner "Rodolpho" (Andre Hinds) who flies over the stage with his distinctive dance moves (great Choroography by Byron Easley).
There are Talk-Backs after each remaining Saturday matinee, July 6, 13, and 20. I attended the most recent talk-back and found it very interesting. The cast was asked about was it difficult to learn the British accent. They all agreed it was and complimented Dialect Coach Zach Campion. There is Russian spoken at the end of the play and Emiko Dunn was asked if she really spoke Russian. She stated absolutely. She revealed she was actually 10. It was also stated that Set Designer Milagros Ponce de Leon placed 2,000 books on stage
You can "Meet the Cast" at the Olney Library July 13 at 11 a.m. Bring your own copy of the book and follow along as there will be an excerpt from the novel. Then enjoy a special performance from the cast. This is FREE.
Next up at OTC is Mike Lew's TIGER STYLE running July 17 to August 18. It deals with the miscommunication that can happen between immigrant parents and their children in an outrageous satire about stereotypes and political correctness as two Chinese American siblings search for tehir authentic selves.
Saturday, July 27, is Olney Theatre Center's FREE all day event called "Summer Fest" which has backstage tours, a MATILDA Dance Party, Lopez Sudios' SEUSSICAL, an audition class, the music of the OTC 2019-20 Season, the National Theatre's OUR PLAY, and a discussion with OTC Managing Diretor Debbie Ellinghaus and Artistic Director Jason Loewith (4-5 p.m.). Visit www.OlneyTheatgre.org/Summerfest for the complete schedule
MATILDA HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO JULY 28, 2019. For tickets, call 301-924-3400 or visit www.OlneyTheatre.org. Don't miss the magic and the mayhem. It was so great to see so many children in the theater.
Next season has been announced. Highlights include CABARET, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, the Tony-winning play THE HUMANS, and one of my favorite musicals, PIPPIN.