BWW Review: MATILDA at Walnut Street Theatre
At Walnut Street Theatre's Matilda, the "revolting children" are not playing around.
Matilda is a musical adaptation of the timeless Roald Dahl novel about a prodigious young girl with a loud, disapproving family, an elementary school principal who hates kids, and a teacher who is the only person who believes in her.
Despite the large amount of adults in Matilda's life, the children's ensemble in Walnut Street's production are the obvious shining stars.
The opening song, "Miracle" is led by the pint-sized actors who immediately win the audience over. For the kids in the audience, it's relatable when the kids, dressed as wizards, princesses, unicorns and soldiers play on stage. For the adults, it evokes sentimental feelings for the times when playing pretend was the most important thing in the world.
The set transforms into Matilda's house, where her parents (Lyn Philistine and Christopher Sutton) and her brother (Mark Donaldson) yell at her for reading and insist she instead sits with them in front of the television. Although Philistine, Sutton and Donaldson are entertaining, I was left wondering, "where are the kids?"
The next time they appear, I am not disappointed. They amaze in every scene they're in. Lavender (JoJo Schlect) is a standout, especially in her act two monologue that breaks the fourth wall. Bruce (Nicky Intrieri) receives hollers from the audience akin to a rock concert when he riffs and belts through the eleven o'clock number, "Revolting Children."
The rest of the tiny triple threats are enrapturing as they perform some of the most toe-tapping numbers in the show, like "Bruce" and "When I Grow Up."
Matilda (Jemma Bleu Greenbaum) herself should be commended for carrying the show. Greenbaum appears in nearly every scene, and keeps the energy going while perfectly embodying the rebellious kid-genius.
Though the adults take a backseat in the musical, Miss Trunchbull (Ian Merrill Peakes in drag) had me just as hooked as when the kids are on stage. He hits every comedy beat, and plays Miss Trunchbull like a perfect fairytale villain.
Although the show was largely well-put together, including incredible sets, lighting, and orchestra, I was left disappointed in the choreography. At every other show I've seen at Walnut Street, incredible dancing was always incorporated. In Matilda, a show which has a large cast and many songs that lend themselves to big dance numbers, the choreography felt almost like an afterthought.
The only other critique I have is the dialect work. The show is set in England, but often the actors' British accents were inconsistent or difficult to understand.
In the end, Matilda at Walnut Street Theatre was a fun show, and appropriate and exciting for theatergoers of all ages to attend. If not for the story, go just to witness the stars-in-training showcase their amazing talent and, in the future,be prepared to say, "I saw them way back when."
The show runs until January 6th and tickets can be purchased at walnutstreettheatre.org