BWW Review: A Whipsmart MATILDA at the Belmont
Roald Dahl gave us many great stories, not only CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. He also gave us a spunky heroine to love alongside Charlie, the knowledge-loving MATILDA. FIrst a movie with Danny DiVito, it later was adapted by Dennis Kelly into a stage musical with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Beloved by its fans on Broadway, it's also loved at the Belmont Theatre, directed by Rene Staub.
The central character of the show, Matilda Wormwood, is played at the Belmont by Jayda Segal, as Marilda-like as could be - spunky, strongwilled, smart, imaginative, and just a bit naughty. Well, maybe she's more than a bit naughty, but if you had the Wormwoods (Jim Ganning and a stellar Marisa Hoover) for parents, you might want to disobey orders, too.
While Matilda is the central character, all eyes are always on the real star - or is it scene-stealer, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, headmistress of Matilda's school and former Olympic athlete; Miss Turnbull is straight out of British panto, a comical man's part playing a woman, and when a seriously funny, physically demanding role of this sort is required, Jeremy Slagle is always there to run away with it. As Miss Trunchbull, Slagle owns the show. If you need a character to be more than a little deranged in a comedy, call him - Slagle owns this entire type of role (his A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER at Allenberry is legend already),
With Nina Cline as the lovable teacher Miss Honey, and Chris Quigley as both Mrs. Wormwood's obstetrician and the Russian mobster who likes Matilda, a show can't go wrong. Catherine Eisenbeil adds the perfect note as Matilda's first real adult fan, a devoted librarian enthralled by Matilda's prescient storytelling.
Look forward to such student ensemble numbers as "When I Grow Up," as well as Miss Trunchbull's classic "The Smell of Rebellion." "Loud" is a tour de force by Marisa Hoover as Mrs. Wormwood, aided by her Latin dance partner (Mrs. Wormwood has but one interest in her life - ballroom dance competition), in which Hoover proves once again that she can belt. And Chris Quigley, as the black-coated and black-hearted mobster Sergei is outstanding in his reprise of "This Little Girl," adding the mobster to Matilda's adult fan club as he helps her get her unruly parents away from her.
Sets are fairly minimal here, which is very effective in conjunction with the show's lighting, except for Matilda's two favorite, and most real, places - Mrs. Phelps' library and Miss Honey's classroom. Although the children are mostly in their school uniforms, the adults incline to the colorfully dressed, especially Mrs, Wormwood and, of course, Miss Trunchbull in her ready-for-athletics dress. You will never see Olympic hammer throwing in the same way again.
Fun, loud, cheerful, and a little bit naughty, a story where the children are savvier than the adults and create their own magic. Followed in in January by a non-musical comedy, Neil Simon's RUMORS, keeping winter cheer going at the Belmont,