BWW REVIEW: Revolting Sound System Mars MATILDA Tour
Book by Dennis Kelly; music and lyrics by Tim Minchin; director, Matthew Warchus; musical director, Matthew Smedal; choreography, Peter Darling; set and costume design, Rob Howell; orchestrations and additional music, Chris Nightingale; sound design, Simon Baker; lighting design, Hugh Vanstone; illusion, Paul Kieve; voice director, Andrew Wade
Cast in Order of Appearance:
Party Entertainer, Rudolpho, Stephen Diaz; Doctor, The Escape Artist, Justin Packard; Mrs. Wormwood, Darcy Stewart; Mr. Wormwood, Brandon McGibbon; Matilda, Sarah McKinley Austin (alternating with Lily Brooks O'Briant and Savannah Grace Elmer); Michael Wormwood, Darren Burkett; Mrs. Phelps, Keisha T. Fraser; Miss Honey, Paula Brancati; The Acrobat, Kim Sava; Miss Trunchbull, Dan Chameroy; Sergei, Eric Craig; Bruce, Ryan Christopher Dever; Lavender, Charlie Kersh; Nigel, Will Coombs; Amanda, Austyn Johnson; Eric, Madison Smith; Alice, Cassidy Hagel; Hortensia, Megan McGuff; Tommy, Jordan Hall; ensemble, Jacqueline Burtney, Cameron Burke, Anthony MacPherson, Gray Monczka, Laurin Padolina
Performances and Tickets:
Now through June 26, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston; tickets start at $44 and are available at the Box Office, online at www.BroadwayInBoston.com or by calling Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787.
The talented, hard-working children of MATILDA THE MUSICAL NATIONAL TOUR spend much of their time on stage revolting against their horrible headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Off-stage they should revolt against the horrible sound system that renders their lyrics indecipherable.
But the blame shouldn't stop with Simon Baker, the sound designer for the production. Composer Tim Minchin should be sent to the "Chokey" for penning lyrics so dense that they'd twist the tongue of Lin Manuel Miranda. Musical director Matthew Smedal should beat some sense into his very loud orchestra with his baton. And voice director Andrew Wade and director Matthew Warchus should probably get their hearing checked for letting all those inarticulate Cockney accents pass for acceptable diction.
Supposedly MATILDA is a celebration of one girl's literacy in a world dominated by adult bullies and buffoons. You'd never know it given that most of the much heralded words in Minchin's songs can't be discerned.
Which is really too bad given that Sarah McKinley Austin (at the reviewed press performance) is singing, dancing, and acting her heart out as Matilda, as are the other eight "maggots" in her classroom at Crunchem Hall. This tiny troupe does some very heavy lifting - climbing, tumbling, swinging and rebelling all while delivering a rousing emotional wallop.
MATILDA is based on the much loved Roald Dahl children's book in which the title character escapes her neglectful and verbally abusive parents, the Wormwoods (Darcy Stewart and Brandon McGibbon), by voraciously reading and fantasizing. The library is her sanctuary, and there she befriends Mrs. Phelps (Keisha T. Fraser), an eager audience for her elaborate storytelling. When she is enrolled at Crunchem Hall, she is immediately targeted as a troublemaker by the hideous Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy), a larger-than-life monster of a headmistress who hates her charges and tortures them incessantly. Fortunately her teacher Miss Honey (Paula Brancati) is sympathetic, and she encourages Matilda's gifts.
When the worm turns, as it were, Matilda and the children take control, making heroes out of victims and rendering the bullies powerless. Good triumphs over evil and those "Revolting Children" seize the day.
The little shaggy haired Austin is unquestionably the star of the show, but Fraser, Brancati, and especially young Ryan Christopher Dever as Matilda's cowering classmate Bruce are also memorable. Chameroy plays Trunchbull so nastily that her antics are more despicable than comic, and as Matilda's narcissistic and deceitful parents, Stewart and McGibbon are overbearingly one-note.
The show's physical production is topnotch, with sets, lighting, projections and special effects creating eerie scenes and sensations that seem to emerge from Matilda's imagination. Peter Darling's choreography is also exceptional, infused with childhood angst and rebellion as hyperkinetic as the children who dance it.
It's astounding that a show that has been running in London for almost five years, has been on Broadway for more than three years, and has been touring since May 2015 still has lyrics that are impossible to hear. Are the creators simply too close to notice, or worse, don't they care?
Either way, it's inexcusable. And it isn't fair to anyone.
(MATILDA THE MUSICAL NATIONAL TOUR - photos by Joan Marcus)