BWW Review: CTC Thrills with Production of Roald Dahl's MATILDA THE MUSICAL
Might children appear to be called maggots or miracles? What type of question could that possibly be? The famous British young adult author, Roald Dahl, fills his pages with chill and thrill inducing scenes that empower children to take themselves seriously and asks that very question of his readers. On the first May weekend, Minneapolis' Children's Theatre Company (CTC) opened a production that began in London and then travelled to Broadway in their opening of Matilda the Musical, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's famous 1988 young adult novel.
Dennis Kelly composed the original adaptation together with lyrics by Tim Minchin, which debuted in England at Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010 and then transferred to London's West End. By 2013, the musical reached New York's Broadway theaters. Winning a flurry of awards, this delightfully dark song and dance musical represents a full length production for CTC, complete with an entire ensemble that supports an accomplished and adorable Matilda. On the opening Sunday evening, Lillian Hochman stepped into those shoes and charmed the audience opposite a terrifying Miss Trunchbull, Emily Gunyou Halaas.
In this challenging and chilling story, the young Matilda finds herself growing up in a family that ridicules intelligence, reading and telling stories. Her mother and father (Talented actors Autumn Ness and Dean Holt) call Matilda names, love the telly and value how a person looks or how rich they are instead of their character. To escape their taunts, Matilda spends time reading in the library, which features an incredible floor to ceiling serpentine bookcase.
The bookcases actually split to reveal a monumental screen where Matilda's stories can be projected while she tells them to the librarian, Mrs. Phelps. Scenic Designer Scott Davis enchants the audience with books floating from the ceiling and across the stage, along with easy to change scene transitions throughout the production. This includes accolades to the Projection Designer Jorge Cousineau, along with the Lighting Designer Philip S. Rosenberg, for producing the stories in silhouette for the audience.
When Matilda enters her strict new school, she meets other children terrorized by the headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, an icon of misbehaved principles everywhere. Halaas embodies the austere and stern Trunchbull, complete with a military presence and her trusty horse whip. Even Matilda's classroom teacher, the compassionate Miss Honey played by China Brickey, finds facing the headmistress terrifying. While Mathilda eventually maneuvers between her frustrating home life and the treacherous school rules, she ultimately discovers she's an amazing girl-a miracle!
Roald Dahl delivered the darker side of adulthood to his readers, often seen from a child's perspective with striking reality. Children in Dahl;s novels find their way through a muddled world, where parents and teachers may be the opposite of what a child hopes them to be. What does a child do when faced with these situations? Dahl's Matilda represents a powerful force for all children, especially young girls, and Matilda counteracts the horrible behavior she encounters with intelligence and respectful behaviors usually to reverse any grievous or mischievous wrongdoing. Her bright mind allows her to see clearly and exactly what needs to be done in difficult situations.
Clever and entertaining choreography by Linda Talcott Lee enchants the audience, where actors dancing on beds, desks or library ladders creates theatre mystery. When Miss Trunchbull flings a child off the stage, the child miraculously appears in the auditorium balcony to the audience's delight. Musical Director Andrew Fleser conducts a six piece orchestra, with live music to accompany the Broadway musical.
The accomplished production runs a full two plus hours, although Director Peter C. Brosius skillfully paces the musical perfectly, developing the drama and unsettling events while fully allowing Matilda to triumph at the finale. Surrounded by an impeccable cast, Matilda herself creates the production's momentum and theatrical miracle. Hockman inhabits a stellar Matilda that embodies the character's compassion for others and her individual chutzpah with equal believability in the musical.
With a few words of education, a six year old in the audience Sunday evening found herself frightened during parts of the musical, seeking safety on her mother's lap. Parents be prepared for the production's length and scarier themes--which ultimately resolve in a wonderful and satisfying ending. If an adult chooses to accompany a six and under child, perhaps prepare them by briefly explaining the story and assure the child all will be okay when the musical finishes and they leave the theater.
Life for adults and children will often be "scary." To have children experience a Matilda who rises above her misfortune and seeks out comfort in books or uses her imagination creates an ideal event to share about these life happenings. Matilda also discovers the way to use her innate gifts for the greater good and this iconic story at CTC offers an evening to remember.
The utterly compelling and exciting Matilda offers an opportunity to view a previous on Broadway production from a child's point of view while experiencing an award winning score---both which give voice to children's emotions and confirms their value. Absolutely experience CTC's chill and thrill filled musical extravaganza while here in the Twin Cities. Adults and children alike will cheer when Matilda saves herself and those she loves, people who care about the girl who loves books and telling stories.
Children Theatre's Company of Minneapolis presents Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical through June 23. For information on the 2109-2120 season, performance schedule or tickets, please visit www.childrenstheatre.org.