Review: MATILDA at Cultural Arts Playhouse

This electrifying production runs until June 18th at the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset!

By: May. 27, 2023
Review: MATILDA at Cultural Arts Playhouse

Currently playing at the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset, MATILDA is nothing short of a masterpiece. Directed by Cultural Arts Playhouse Owner/President Bruce Grossman, the musical based on Roald Dahl’s classic novel is electrifying and filled to the brim with energy. 

Review: MATILDA at Cultural Arts Playhouse
Samantha Morton and the company of MATILDA (Photo by Andrew J. Koehler)

Not enough can be said about how much of a joy it was to witness Samantha Morton in the titular role of “Matilda.” When she first entered, Morton was greeted with thunderous applause. Her performance was nothing short of spectacular, a stand-out moment, of many, was hers of the song “Quiet.” Morton gives a performance that rivals the most seasoned Broadway legends, complete with superb vocals and golden story-telling. She commanded that stage like a firecracker, connecting very easily to her scene partners. 

Lily Linaweaver delights in the role of “Miss Honey,” with soaring vocals and a tenderness to her performance that leaves even the most cynical audience member weeping. Linaweaver’s performance of “My House” left the audience gobsmacked, between her sparkling vocals and her clear care that she took with telling her character’s story. With this number, and any number she takes the lead in, Linaweaver brings the audience to another world.

Playing the iconic “Miss Agatha Trunchbull” was John DiGiorgio. Audiences got a huge kick out of DiGiorgio in this role, as he clearly is not an actor who is afraid to play. “The Smell of Rebellion” was an incredible number, featuring acrobatics from the “Teen Ensemble,” including some sailing through the air by DiGiorgio himself. To put it plainly, DiGiorgio brings down “The Hammer” in this role, and can not (and should not) be missed. 

Ellie Eichenlaub and Jay Braiman portrayed “Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood,” “Matilda’s” eclectic parents. Eichenlaub and Braiman are an uproarious pair, both possessing a fire when together, and unparalleled energy when apart. Eichenlaub delights in her performance of “Loud,” showing off her incredible vocals and noteworthy dancing capabilities. Braiman is phenomenal in the second-act opener “Telly.” Much to the audience’s delight, he threw in some audience interaction before bringing down the house with his vocals. Playing “Michael Wormwood” is the equally hilarious Dante DiGiorgio. In the song “Telly,” DiGiorgio leaves the audience cackling with delight as he darts back and forth trying to catch books as Braiman tosses them over his shoulder. 

As “Miss Phelps,” Laila Canelo is a wonder. Clearly connected to her scene partners, each of her choices were meticulous and clearly well thought out. Each time Canelo stepped out onto the stage, the audience knew they were in for a treat. 

It would be sinful to not mention Shiloh Bennett as “the Doctor.” In the opening number “Miracle,” Bennett electrifies the stage and masterfully sets the tone for the whole show. His vocals were magnificent, he has a voice that is purely indescribable and heartstopping. Bennett definitely has a knack for showstoppers.

Anthony Orellana is a crowd favorite as “Rudolpho,” “Mrs. Wormwood’s” dancing partner. He steals the audience's hearts with ease, and tears up the stage with his flawless dance moves and charismatic energy. 

Lighting up the stage as “Sergei” is Tom McKenna. McKenna has a knack for comedic characters, as it wasn’t long before he had the audience cracking up with delight. 

Review: MATILDA at Cultural Arts Playhouse
The company of MATILDA (Photo by Andrew J. Koehler)

MATILDA would not be MATILDA without the young actors, and each of these actors were showstopping. Connor DaSilva is fantastic in the role of “Bruce” and displays electrifying vocals in the number “Revolting Children.” In the role of “Nigel,” Dylan Schachte stood out with his various comedic features, a favorite being him screaming at the top of his lungs when asked to read letters on the chalkboard. Alexis Daly as “Amanda” was such a delight. Daly’s acting choices stood out and spoke of a fine actor. Appearing as “Lavender,” (“Matilda’s” Best Friend!) Shea James is a joy to watch. Perfectly capturing “Lavender’s” playful, yet mischievous, ways, James stole the audience’s hearts with ease. James is not to be missed in this role! Riley Alexander (“Erin”), Emme Merabi (“Hortensia”), Brody Frain (“Tommy”), and Isabella Surber (“Alice”) each displayed incredible acting and singing abilities, with jaw-dropping dance capabilities.  Joining the kids are the “Teen Ensemble,” which features Zaria Canizares, Kaitlyn Patterson, Eli Jawitz, Nate Feinstein, Laila Canelo, Catalina Hopkins, Catherine Saffi, Nyiela Freeman, Nic Digena, Mandelynn Lang, Brendan Smith, Adrian Andrade, Isabella Andrade, Cody Chelune, Dante DiGiorgio, Valerie Cardamuro, Isabella Scarpa and Shanleigh Meehan. These people moved as a unit, and danced together with perfect coordination and precision. A stand-out number was "When I Grow Up," complete with choreography on swings! "Revolting Children" was a crowd favorite, as the applause lasted for nearly a minute after the final button of the song. 

The set was designed by Tom McKenna, and what a spectacular set this was! There were blocks with letters hanging from the grid, and blocks adorning the walls of the set. Perhaps the best part of the set was that “Matilda’s” bedroom door was the binding of three books. That spoke to “Matilda’s” love for books, and it is a nice nod to the fact that this show started as a novel. 

The lighting was designed by Cultural Arts Playhouse Artistic Director/General Manager Tony Frangipane, and the lighting was very well-done. Each of the settings were well informed by the use of the light. It is worth noting that the use of haze and laser/strobe lights are in this production.

Kristina King provided the choreography for MATILDA, and it is clear that King’s heart and soul goes into the choreography. These kids performed the intricate choreography with mastery and ease.

Musical direction was provided by Shiloh Bennett. Each of the musical numbers were very well put together, and very tight.

Direction was provided by Bruce Grossman. He has a knack for blockbusters, and MATILDA was purely sensational. It was clear that Grossman pulled out all of the stops on this production, each of the actors were very clearly guided and each one shined and stood out in their own special way, thanks to him. It is because of his mastery that audiences are left abuzz at every point with excitement about the show before, during and after the show has concluded.

Review: MATILDA at Cultural Arts Playhouse
The company of MATILDA (Photo by Andrew J. Koehler)

MATILDA is not to be missed! It runs at the Cultural Arts Playhouse in Syosset until June 18th.

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Andrew J. Koehler is a multi-hyphenate artist whose mission is to spread his love of the theatre to all. You can almost always find him in the theatre, whether he is performing, working in a scene sho... Andrew J. Koehler">(read more about this author)


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