Review: MATILDA THE MUSICAL is not for the faint of heart

Matilda the Musical is an upbeat musical about a difficult and not-so fun childhood.

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Matilda The Musical is a quirky musical about a unique little girl with an extraordinary mind. Roald Dahl's beloved 1988 children's novel was turned into a stage show by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by the inimitable Tim Minchin. Shawna Linck directs the Kids Alive! Production, presented on the campus of Oklahoma Christian.

The subject matter is unforgiving, and what this story is truly about is neglect and abuse. Matilda grows up with a family that doesn't care about her and finds solace in knowledge and learning, becoming a prodigy in school and capturing the heart of her teacher. It's a tough sell, especially for the youngest patrons. And it's definitely hard to watch as a parent.

The Student Cast performs admirably with a tough score, robust dialogue, and ambitious choreography. Kaylie Fitzpatrick is radiant as Matilda. She's got the energy and determination, and keeps up with every scene for nearly three hours. Patience Baker is stern as Trunchbull, making a commanding and terrifying Headmistress. Nia Sier is endearing and kind as Miss Honey, the only adult with redeeming qualities. Kaleb Siler is rambunctious and exasperating as Matilda's father Mr. Wormwood. His antics keep the audience guessing and his look gets wilder as the show goes on. Miranda McLean is spirited and amusing as the vapid Mrs. Wormwood, and she's a much better dancer than a mother. Tessa Dorrell is charming and loving as the librarian Ms. Phelps. Gavin Guthrie is feisty and exuberant as the dance instructor Rudolpho.

The diverse cast is completed by Ari Singh as Michael Wormwood, Danielle Szabo as the Entertainer/Acrobat, Jeremy Sheets as the Escapologist, Maurice Quintel as the Doctor, James Gonzales as Sergei, Simon Ross as Nigel, Kamilla Quiambo as Tommy, Melina Mincey as Lavender, Jackson Williams as Eric, and Mia McCool as Amanda. Izzy Castaneda is Alice, Kassidy Quiambo is Bruce, Violet Doland is Hortensia, Nala Saulsberry is Snark Kid, Parker Case is the Judge, and Macey Rapson is the Cook.

Sound problems plague the entire performance, and the actors work professionally through and around them. Never breaking stride, they all have now surely learned how to work with unreliable sound systems. This coupled with a mix of masked and unmasked performers makes the dialogue and lyrics nearly impossible to decipher. The ground-level performance space doesn't help, and the cast is simply left to work with what they've got. It must be frustrating as a performer, and it's definitely frustrating as a reviewer.

It may be helpful for this theatre to explore other performance spaces. The campus of Oklahoma Christian doesn't rise above bare minimum, and it's not an inviting space for children to watch a show. There are no concessions, and parents with small children need incentives! The show is also too long - a "kids" show should never come near three hours long. The most confusing part of the entire experience is the realization that Matilda The Musical isn't really suitable for young children. The lack of kids in the audience proves this further. It's fine for those 10 and up, but probably won't interest teenagers. It lives in a weird space where it's too mature for young kids and too juvenile for older ones. Tim Minchin's brilliance is all but stifled, and the music is forgettable at best.

With very little character development and a murky moral, it's advisable to put this show away and not bring it back out... ever. But, it's a musical, and musicals sell. When you're a struggling theatre (as they all are), and you're trying to sell tickets and fill seats, well, Matilda it is.

Matilda is at times shocking, and more than a little heartbreaking. The script awkwardly fumbles towards its goal. It seeks redemption and forgiveness, and aims to show what amazing things can happen when a child has one adult who cares for them. Matilda is an ordinary girl who rises above extraordinary hardships. She does it all with hope, resilience, and a little bit of magic. We can only hope that our own children never have to experience a world like Matilda's, and never have to relate to her struggle.


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From This Author - Adrienne Proctor

Adrienne Proctor is an Oklahoma City-based writer, theatre-goer, and mom. An avid supporter of the arts, Adrienne has reviewed regional, university, and Broadway productions since 2017. Her ... (read more about this author)


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