BWW Review: MATILDA at Fairfield Center Stage
Opening night of Roald Dahl's MATILDA, as presented by Fairfield Center Stage, at Fairfield Ludlowe High School Auditorium yielded a large audience with profound applause. With book by Dennis Kelly and music & lyrics by Tim Minchin, numerous differences from the Roald Dahl book or movie adaptation can be found in the stage production. Perhaps the most spectacular of these is seeing an object on stage appear to move by itself, and writing on a board seeming to magically appear, concepts that can be written about or adapted to screen, but in those formats can never quite mesmerize people to the degree that these meticulously performed stage effects dazzled the live audience in this production.
Under the direction of Christy McIntosh-Newsom and choreography of Jessica Rahrig, the incredibly talented children in the cast truly shine. I am beyond impressed with the amount of work and effort it had to take to get twenty-three children, the youngest being only four years old, to speak and sing with flawless British accents. I was absolutely blown away by the magnitude of this accomplishment. At the same time, I know that Fairfield Center Stage consistently goes that extra mile to successfully achieve extreme levels of production excellence that many theater companies would view as too difficult to even consider attempting. The synchronized and coordinated dancing by the children is also highly impressive. During one number, the children do synchronized exercises, including squat thrusts, which acting or not requires physical fitness, consistent among the children in the show,
While the October 12th, 18th, and 20th, productions have the principal children roles, including Matilda, scheduled to be performed by different actors and actresses from who I saw, the same children's cast I saw is scheduled to perform on the October 13th and October 19th productions. I can imagine, however, that under the same direction, and with the same children's ensemble with them, the children in the cast on the alternating days will be wonderful, too.
Nikki Adorante leads the children, excelling in the leading role of Matilda. Nikki Adorante has tremendous poise and stage presence. Matilda is a highly likeable bright young girl who loves to read, yet has been resented by her parents, even before she was born. Matilda is sent to a private school run by a tyrant, and uses her knowledge, charisma, courage, and telekinetic powers to inspire and lead a revolt against the overbearing child-hating principal.
Ainsley Dahlstrom is spectacular in the role of Lavender, who is Matilda's self-proclaimed best friend. Ainsley Dahlstrom's confidence and command of the stage is evident throughout the show, particularly showcased in a scene where Lavender is on stage alone, addressing the audience directly, in a narration kind of way.
Ryan Morrill is fantastic as Bruce, one of Matilda's classmates who gets into serious trouble at school after eating something that was not his to eat. He is sentenced to the chokey, a much dreaded and isolated cabinet containing nails and pieces of glass, a punishment that itself is not shown on stage.
The other principal children roles of Nigel, Amanda, Eric, Hortensia, Tommy, and Alice are all magnificently performed by Luke Hatzis, Natasha Schumann, Senna Lieber, Ainsley Novin, Sana "Prince" Sarr, and Cassidy Meehan, respectively.
The talented children's ensemble is comprised of Tiernan Connolly, Nicholas Ferreira, Molly Forker, Emily Gregson, Nicole Mongillo, Katie Priscott, Emily Seanor, Genevieve Seanor, Nora Watson, Charlotte Harrington, Emery Holden, Felicity Horne, CJ Newsom, and Rita Watson.
Brian Crook leads a talented live six piece band that performs in an area that some would consider the very front of stage right, while others would consider to be the front of house left. My favorite song is the rebellious anthem, "Revolting Children," a title that uses the double meaning of "revolting," as in disgusting, what the principal said about the children, to the children, and the other use, intended by the children, meaning rebelling.
Another musical highlight is "School Song," performed by the children's ensemble, with some fascinating choreography including some children stepping up and down on steps of a gate designed to make the school look like a prison.
The message shows the universal need children have of feeling and being loved, as well as the need to take a decisive and proactive stand against tyrannical abuse, and to do so united with the other victims of the tyranny.
This run of MATILDA is limited to only six performances, on the aforementioned dates, the last one scheduled for October 20, 2019. For times and tickets, please go to https://www.fairfieldcenterstage.org/.