Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On First Stage's MATILDA The Musical

Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On First Stage's MATILDA The MusicalFirst Stage MATILDA The Musical, featuring music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and book by Dennis Kelly is now on stage. This is the first full-length musical First Stage has produced, performing at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater January 11 - February 24, 2019.

First Stage productions are typically cast with two Young Performer casts; this production features two Young Performer casts, with three Young Performers who alternate playing the title role of Matilda. Artistic Director Jeff Frank directs this production of MATILDA The Musical, Director of Artistic Operations Jeff Schaetzke serves as Music Director and Milwaukee Ballet's Michael and Jayne Pink choreographs. Presented by the Molitor Foundation.

The adult cast for Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical at First Stage features: Allie Babich, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (title roles in HAMLET at Utah Shakespeare Festival and VIOLET at Skylight Musical Theatre/First Stage Alumni) as Acrobat/Ensemble/Understudy for Ms. Doherty; Darrington Clark, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (last season's THE WIZ at First Stage) as Escapologist/Doctor/Ensemble; Jackson Evans, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (Big Josh in BIG, THE MUSICAL, The Cat in the Hat in SEUSSICAL and the Scarecrow in THE WIZ at First Stage) as Mr. Wormwood; Molly Rhode, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (Director of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL this season at First Stage, appeared in production in 2003 and 2009, has directed and choreographed many First Stage productions/First Stage Alumni) as Mrs. Wormwood; Elizabeth Telford, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (SHREK THE MUSICAL at First Stage) as Miss Honey; Teddy Warren, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS at First Stage/First Stage Alumni) as Rudolpho/Ensemble; Kelly Doherty, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (making her First Stage debut, A LOVELY SUNDAY at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and SILENT SKY at Next Act Theatre) as Trunchbull; Solana Ramirez-Garcia (First Stage debut, FUN HOME at Forward Theatre Madison) as Mrs. Phelps/Ensemble; Austin Winter (First Stage Alumni, First Stage Artistic Intern) as Ensemble; Elliott Brotherhood as Ensemble; Jamie Mercado (First Stage Alumni, First Stage Artistic Intern) as Ensemble; AJ Magoonas Evans and Understudy for Mr. Clark; Ethan Brittingham as Warren and Understudy for Mr. Winter; Kaitlyn Serketich as Understudy for Ms. Babich, Ms. Ramirez-Garcia and Ms. Mercado and Stephanie Staszak as Understudy for Ms. Rhode and Ms. Telford.

The Young Performers cast in both the Diligent and Determined Cast are: Taylor Arnstein (from Fox Point) as Matlida; Reese Bell (from Cedarburg) as Matilda and Marina Evans (from Hartland) as Matilda.

Young Performer roles are double cast. Young Performers in the Diligent Cast include: Lucia Santana (from Milwaukee) as Lavendar; Paisley Schroeder (from Waukesha) as Alice; Eloise Bejma (from Shorewood) as Amanda; Elizabeth Kuhnen( Pewaukee) as Hortensia; Ryon Davis (from Milwaukee) as Nigel; William Swoboda (from Whitefish Bay) as Tommy; Max Larson (from Milwaukee) as Bruce; Charles Elliott(from Milwaukee) as Eric; Jonathan Neustifter (from Racine) as Michael; Trinity Escalera (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble;

Abby Hanna (from Franklin) as Ensemble; Lilly Frank (from Wauwatosa) as Ensemble; Celeste Hermans (from Saukville) as Ensemble and Sawyer Esten (from Cedarburg) as Ensemble.

Young Performers in the Determined Cast include: Madison Jones (from Milwaukee) as Lavendar; Sailor Ames (from Brookfield) as Alice; Ella Vitrano (from Greendale) as Amanda; Kylee Hennes (from Hubertus) as Hortensia; J. Jackson Vining (from Wauwatosa) as Nigel; Alex Radtke (from Cedarburg) as Tommy; Trygve Gundersen (from Madison) as Bruce; Gavin Miller (from Wauwatosa) as Eric; Nikolai Morrow (from Delafield) as Michael; Asauntee Bynum(from Milwaukee) as Ensemble; Asha Metcalfe (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble; Katie McCaskey (from Waukesha) as Ensemble; Erin Fricker (from Brookfield) as Ensemble and Ben Stull (from Mequon) as Ensemble.

Tickets start at $25 - Tickets may be purchased at www.firststage.org or through the Marcus Center box office, in person at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee or by phone (414) 273-7206 or toll free at (888) 612-3500. The number for TDD (for deaf and hard of hearing patrons) is (414) 273-3080.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Kelsey Lawler, BroadwayWorld: Bringing some sweetness to all of the slime is Elizabeth Telford as Miss Honey. Telford's demeanor is every inch believable in her complex blend of self-doubt, wide-eyed hope, and determination. Moreover, her lovely voice rings clear as a bell-especially beautiful in Act Two's touching "My House."

Adam Rogan, Milwaukee Mag: First Stage doesn't mess with the sets in this production, taking its cues from how it was staged on Broadway. But two or three magical moments stand out against orthodox motifs of alphabet blocks and chalkboards. Credit Design Supervisor Brandon Kirkham for those.

Gwen Rice, OnMilwaukee: In a production full of scene-stealing performances, perhaps the most blatant is Kelly Doherty as the vile and manipulative Miss Trunchbull, a headmistress with a zeal for evoking fear and causing misery among her charges. Decked out in a brown tweed suit dress with oversized shoulders and a leather belt to accentuate Trunchbull's athletic frame, Doherty savagely hurls insults (and a student or two) just as her character used to throw hammers for the English Olympic team.

Blaine Shultz, Shepherd Express: The students' final act, a mutinous spelling bee, sends Trunchbull over the edge and she flees. Miss Honey learns her parents will has been found and the house is turned over to her, no longer the property of Trunchbull. The First Stage production includes 20 songs, some choreographed like heavy traffic through a roundabout with the 14 student cast. The performance was backed by a three-piece orchestra. At over two hours with an intermission, Matilda kept the young audience entertained and included a short Q&A afterward.

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