BWW Review: Comical and Stranger Things at Play in MATILDA: THE MUSICAL at Red Mountain Theatre Company
The legendary writing of Roald Dahl captures the wonder of childhood imagination, while confronting the tang of unfairness in the world. Dahl's popular books "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Matilda" are both books (and films) that are delightfully joyful, and unpleasant at the same time. The sweet with the sour is a delicate combination to make in any dish or story. Roald Dahl's "Matilda: The Musical" is rooted in the magic of great storytelling. Red Mountain Theatre Company delivers this delightfully structured tale about a brilliant five-year-old girl gifted with a little extra than the ordinary.
Matilda (spunky Ramsey Whitney) is a precocious, and mischievous little genius. She is a bright bookworm stuck in a dark, and dim family. Her father Mr. Wormwood (David Strickland) is a cartoonishly sleazy pompadoured hustler/shady used car salesman. Her dazed brother Michael (Joshua Rauterkus) is a TV zombie dullard. Her shotty mother Mrs. Wormwood (Elise Mayfield) is a laugh out loud dancing queen of all hot messes. Dysfunction is the function of this family. They are not the loving, supportive parents one would expect in a children's story. They are comically crooked, crass, ignorant and mean.
Matilda (Whitney) is the only one with real smarts and prospects. Her parents find this troublesome and send her to a stern and stone cold school run by an overly aggressive head mistress, Miss Trunchbull. Energetically portrayed by the hilarious Caleb Clark. Trunchbull's comically cold hate considers Matilda to be nothing but another "miserable maggot of a child." In contrast, Matilda's smarts quickly catches the attention of compassionate teacher Ms. Honey (Bonny Baker), who notices her gifts shine bright, and deserve extra attention. She sees the young girl as a blessing. Matilda's refuge from the harshness of her life is the time spent with Ms. Honey (Baker) at school, and at the local library. Her always-eager audience for story time is kind Librarian Mrs. Phelps (Toy Matthews). She is awe struck by Matilda' storytelling skills. Matilda's morality is equally as large as her reading skills. She despises injustices by abusive adults. Each occurrence pushes her buttons a bit more each time. She gets pushed to a point where she starts to strike back. The result is an imaginative adventure.
Director Michael Flowers delivers an exciting presentation worthy of a must-do family outing. Flowers direction conveys childlike wonder along with the nail biting tension of the feeling of having to go to the principal's office. The performance takes you on a well-balanced ride between comedy and drama. The lighting designed by Brad Cozby, sound designed by Patrick MacDonald, and scenic design by Michelle Nevy provides incredible visuals delivering funny, and emotionally striking moments. The border of the vast stage is adorned with several stylized classroom chalkboards. The effect is both whimsical, and dark. They are a wonderfully utilized to enhance the emotion of the performance. Wig/Makeup designs by Holly McClendon and costumes by Susan Branch Towne outfit with wonderfully exaggerated looks. Musical director Katie Holmes leads a solid orchestra giving much life and energy to Minchin's songs.
The large company of talented children in this performance is a joy to watch. This is not only a production with talented lead actors. It is a bright example of an extremely strong ensemble of talented young actors. From the acting, singing and dancing, these kids put their skills to the test. Choreographer Robin Lewis wows with impressive synchronization for such a large ensemble. The use of various styles gives consistent excitement to the numbers. Lewis provides wonderful movements that echo hints of Broadway's "Spring Awakening", "A Chorus Line", 'Spamalot", and "Tommy."
"Matilda: The Musical" book is written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. His smart and comical songs embrace memorable melodies and slick lyrics. The poppy songs keep you singing. Lerner places a vast amount of energetic plot into the first act that keeps the story jumping.
"Matilda: The Musical" is a production with much attention to detail and talent. You will find the laughs, and emotions stick with you watching Matilda journey to find happiness.
Red Mountain Theatre Company presents
Matilda: The Musical
July 12th - Aug 4th
Tickets and info at redmountaintheatre.org
Red Mountain Theatre Company performing at
The Dorothy Jemison Day Theater at The Alabama School of Fine Arts
800 19th Street North Birmingham, AL 35203
*** Some construction is in the area so be mindful of extra time to park
Photo credit: Stewart Edmonds