BWW Review: MATILDA at MPAC a Treat for All Ages
The "Matilda" hype is flying through our local community. A quick search of Music Theatre International's website will find five different venues within driving distance performing this show within the next year. However, Manatee Performing Arts has set a high bar with the Area Premiere of a show that is sure to be a true favorite for audiences of all ages.
"Matilda" based on the book by Roald Dahl and with music by Tim Minchin is a story of a young girl (Matilda) who lives in a household full of neglect. Her parents wanted a boy and refer to her as such throughout the show. Matilda compensates for the crazy world around her through storytelling. She weaves magnificent tales which she later discovers were actually visions of others lives that she was telling. Matilda and her classmates attend a school full of students who have not been educated. Miss Honey, their teacher, is set to help them achieve success but she is battled at every turn by Trunchbull who serves as the evil headmistress of the school whose mission is to keep the children uneducated and enslaved.
Director and Choreographer Rick Kirby has done a fantastic job of bringing together a mix of youth and adults to create a magical story that leaves you hopeful while breaking your heart at the same time. The music in the show is difficult but under the direction of Rick Bogner, the cast portrays a synergy that makes every musical number truly enjoyable. The set by Donna Buckalter and lighting by Patrick Bedell added impressive layers to the production. Their choices were creative and helped immerse the audience into Matilda's world of wonder.
The majority of the children's roles are double cast and, on this night, the "Green Cast" was on the stage. Matilda, played by Allie McLaughlin was a ball of fire and did a masterful job tackling this complex role. While at her tender age she is still finding her voice, it was evident that she will develop into a rock star on stage if she continues her current path. McLaughlin displayed varied emotions and carefully navigated the strength and insecurities that her character possesses. Like with most young performers, it is important to continually work on enunciating every word especially in a production so new to community theatre that many do not know the story. I loved her confidence on stage. McLaughlin was in full control and a true delight to watch at every turn.
Cory Woomert portrays the evil Trunchbull and quite frankly, I wouldn't change a thing. He played the role to perfection. Having seen the musical on Broadway, read the book and been a part of a creative team for the show I have a clearly defined idea of how "I" see every character in the show. Woomert exceeded every vision and idea I see for this role. He was engaging, funny, and a true puppet master for the school Trunchbull controls. His comedic timing was perfect, and he helped his fellow actors achieve a higher level of excellence through the enormous depth he brought to his character. Quite frankly, as much as I love young performers and that is my passion; this show is worth seeing for Woomert's performance alone.
Miss Honey played by Sarah Cassidy was charming and strong throughout the show. She portrayed the motherly figure to Matilda perfectly and she displayed a strong vocal prowess that offered the audience true moments of tenderness. Mr. Wormwood (Bill Shideler) and Mrs. Wormwood (Christina Capehart) portrayed Matilda's eccentric parents. Both roles require huge personalities and these actors fit the bill and went over the top every chance they could which added a spark and flare to the show. Raleigh Currin (Lavender), Kyle Ramon (Bruce), and Danielle Snelling (Mrs. Phelps) also turned in noteworthy performances in a cast full of talent.
"Matilda" is going to be in our local theatres for some time to come. Manatee Performing Arts' production will only help the popularity of this show. I plan on returning later this week so I can see the other cast of children create their magic. I highly recommend you do the same.