BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's MATILDA is Pure Magic
MATILDA on Hale Centre Theatre's Centre Stage is exceptional in every way. Every single aspect of the design, performances, and direction is in service of a singular vision of the musical that is astounding. It is pure magic.
MATILDA THE MUSICAL (book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin) is based on the favorite children's novel by Roald Dahl. Matilda is a small girl who escapes the emotional abuse of her family through books and learning. She discovers an ally in her new teacher, Miss Honey, but a formidable foe in headmistress Miss Trunchbull.
Starring as Matilda, Julia Buckner (double cast with Lucy White) is a consummate professional, with acting, singing, and accent that are all near perfection. The level of talent and maturity packed in her small frame and utilized in a local production is astonishing.
Bre Welch is perfectly cast as Miss Honey (double cast with Dawn Dietlein). Of all the roles she's played and exceled in at Hale Centre Theatre, this one fits her the most fully. She gives a flawlessly endearing and touching performance with vocals that reach you to the core.
Danny Inkley is completely committed as Miss Trunchbull (double cast with Aaron Ford) with a commanding presence and deliciously sneering temperament.
Ryan Simmons (double cast with Patrick Livingston) and Ashley Gardner Carlson (double cast with Amelia Rose Moore) are a hoot as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, respectively. They are a fabulously awful pair, in the best way possible.
The many ensemble members playing both the younger and older kids are fantastic with strong performances and athletic movement.
Dave Tinney's direction and choreography is thoughtful and brings a new twist to the show. It maintains what was special about the original production without being confined to a slavish recreation of it.
The scenic design by Kacey Udy is one of his strongest with massive set pieces that fill the space and are always whimsical but often somehow with a dark twist. The school fences, classroom, and dining hall; Matilda's bedroom; a fantasy of balloon-carried book-swings...the list of brilliant set pieces goes on and on.
The floor of the stage is covered with elementary school writing that is a wonderful canvas for the action and is skillfully lit by Josh Roberts to create the right mood for every scene. His lighting design is just as whimsical and dark as the set, and it's beautiful to behold. The movement and design of the set and lights are paired to an emotionally moving effect in Matilda's electric solo moment, "Quiet."
The projections design by Bobby Gibson complements the rest of the production wonderfully and is the best in a Hale Centre Theatre production to date. Using a black background allows the screens not to be distractingly bright, and rather than attempting to create animated backdrops that distract, these projections are utilized to complement the storytelling in ways that supplement rather than supplant what's going on onstage.
The costume by Peggy Willis, hair and makeup by Trisha Ison, and props by Michelle Jensen fit the rest of the design wonderfully and are equally well-crafted.
Last but far from least are the thrilling illusions that are absolutely world class, including moving objects with no sign of wires. It wouldn't be MATILDA without a bit of magic, and this production has it in spades, both literally and figuratively. This is a show that simply cannot be missed. Even when seen, it may not be believed.
MATILDA plays through June 15, 2019. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Julia Buckner (Matilda) and Danny Inkley (Miss Trunchbull)