BWW Review: Wondrous and Magical MATILDA THE MUSICAL at The Fox Theatre
I first became aware of author Roald Dahl from watching the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, although I didn't read the book it was based on, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, until later, finding it much darker in tone than the movie, but very entertaining nonetheless. After that exposure I remember watching the Tales of the Unexpected series on television, which was based on his short story collection of the same name. I never read Matilda, but I wish I had, and I think I'm going to in the near future, because we share something in common; the love of books of all kinds. MATILDA THE MUSICAL brings this tale to life in impressive fashion (book by Dennis Kelly, music & lyrics by Tim Minchin), with this story of a precocious little girl, whose parents don't understand her. It's a wondrous show, filled with memorable songs that snugly fit and advance the action, and an incredible cast that will have you rooting for them every step of the way. It's truly magical, and definitely a must-see, for families, and even those who don't have them. You have to see this glorious production that's currently playing at the Fox Theatre through November 1, 2015.
Born to parents who are simply daft and daffy, Matilda is a little girl who's a voracious reader, and incredibly intelligent. Genetics apparently didn't come into play with her birth, since her mother is more concerned with taking part in dance contests with her partner, Rudolpho, and her father is, basically, a con artist looking to make his fortune by pawning off high mileage vehicles as newly minted transportation. She attends school, and luckily has a teacher, Miss Honey, who completely gets the fact that Matilda is a very advanced young girl. But, the evil principal, Miss Trunchbull is not interested in nurturing children, but more concerned with modeling their behavior with extreme measures that are all about control and discipline, and certainly not learning. There's a lot more to the plot, but then I would spoil the experience for you, and I'm not going to do that because you need to see it for yourself.
Three different young actresses play Matilda, so on any given night you may see Gabby Gutierrez, Mia Sinclair Jenness, or Mabel Tyler (and that also goes for all the other children in the show, which makes sense since this is a touring production, and you can't expect, or legally allow, one young person to play the parts night after night). On this occasion, I had the chance to see Mabel Tyler perform, and she's wonderful in the title role, with her wildly unkempt hair and a spectacularly vivid imagination sparked by her appetite for reading, but also by some special powers she possesses. Tyler is exceptional and lovable, and I can't say enough good things about her work here. Her strong voice and winning attitude are just infectious.
Her mother, Mrs. Wormwood, has no maternal instincts, and is well played by Cassie Silva. Her father, Mr. Wormwood, is simply clueless, and brought to life with considerable skill by Quinn Mattfeld. Her brother, Michael, is dense as a golf ball, and nicely essayed by Danny Tieger. Jennifer Blood does a great job as Miss Honey, her poor teacher who lives in a rundown shack due to her inheritance being denied, but makes the best of things with as much positive energy as she can muster under the circumstances. Ora Jones is also quite good as Mrs. Phelps, the librarian that Matilda tells stories to. Jaquez Andre Sims is properly oily as Rudolpho, and the entire supporting cast is absolutely top notch. The most showy role though is Miss Trunchbull, and Bryce Ryness nearly steals the show with his hilariously malevolent performance.
Matthew Warchus directs this show with style and sensitivity, and despite a rather long running time, the pace is so upbeat that you never notice. He's aided in his efforts by the playfully fun choreography of Peter Darling, and the amazing sets and costumes by Rob Howell, which are pure eye candy, even when they're gloomy or drab to fit the mood of the scene. Hugh Vanstone's lighting is excellent, capturing the perfect atmosphere of each moment, and Paul Kieve's illusions are cleverly executed. Simon Baker's sound design adds still another layer to this multifaceted presentation.
Don't miss MATILDA THE MUSICAL - it's required viewing! You'll laugh, and maybe even shed a tear or two along the way, but you'll be completely engaged and entranced for the entire show. Check it out at the Fabulous Fox Theatre through November 1, 2015.