Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Matilda 75Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical is a magical, imaginative masterpiece!

 




Matilda 500

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda are two of my favorite movies, and they have at least one thing in common; both are based on books written by the incredibly gifted storyteller Roald Dahl. Dahl’s inventive tales often hailed children as heroes and portrayed adults as villains—a characteristic especially true of 5-year-old Matilda’s story. Thank goodness Dennis Kelly (writer) and Tim Minchin (music and lyrics) recognized Matilda’s narrative deserved a place on stage because the musical they created is absolutely astonishing! 

This production is propelled by a notion sang in the show’s second number, “Naughty:” “Just because you find that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it!”—and Matilda Wormwood (Mabel Tyler) doesn’t intend to. Matilda was born into a rough family. Not only did her senseless parents not want her to begin with, they refuse to appreciate her incredible intellect. Matilda LOVES to read. We’re talking the classics, like Romeo and Juliet and Jane Eyre(may I remind you once again, she’s only 5!), but her parents find the idea of reading absolutely disgraceful. When her mom (Cassie Silva) is not dancing and her car salesman dad (Quinn Mattfeld) is not scamming people, they’re crammed in the living room, with Matilda’s older brother, mindlessly watching the telly. Up until she’s enrolled in school, the only woman who praises her abilities is enthusiastic local librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Ora Jones). She’s blown away by Matilda’s storytelling abilities, and often states how proud her parents must be, which Matilda falsely confirms.

Although Matilda is thrilled to start school, the child-hating principal quickly proves to be even more villainous and obnoxious than her parents! The monster’s name is Miss Agatha Trunchbull (Bryce Ryness), and she is a former Olympic hammer-throwing champion turned insult-slinging headmistress. Fortunately, Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood), is the total opposite of Miss Trunchbull; she’s extremely sweet and caring. However, she fears the disciplinarian as much as her students. It’s up to quick-thinking Matilda to set things right!

Many scenes of this brilliant production left me utterly speechless. The show’s opening number “Miracle” instantly captures the audience’s attention and cradles it for the remainder of the show. “Miracle” not only perfectly sets up the story, it also showcases the phenomenal set design, choreography, lyrics, and ensemble (of about half children, half adults) that continue to shine throughout the entire production. If you are familiar with the movie, you’ll be happy to know the musical contains almost all of the memorable scenes and executes them wonderfully!

There are three aspects to this production that especially blew me away: 1) Bryce Ryness’ performance as Miss Trunchbull, 2) Mabel Tyler’s spectacular portrayal of Matilda, and 3) the show’s set design. Bryce Ryness is listed first for a reason! This man completely stole the show! Not only was his costuming and makeup spot on, his over the top embodiment of the character was pure genius! While the characters onstage shudder in the face of the frightening headmistress, the audience is trying not to double over with laughter! His mannerisms are hysterical. Next, I have to take a moment to gush about Tyler. She’s one of the most exquisite child actors I’ve seen grace the stage. Her delivery is sharp and flawless, and for a small little girl her stage presence illuminates the entire theatre! Her role is extremely demanding, so it makes sense that there are two other girls playing Matilda on this tour. I’m sure the other two are spectacular as well, but Tyler IS the new face of Matilda in my mind–her performance unforgettable. Lastly, I must extend significant praise to Rob Howell’s set design and Paul Kieve’s illusion work, which together really add to the magic of this show.

The only comment of criticism I have to share about this production is there were—at least at my showing—occasional sound quality issues. There were moments when it was difficult to make out what Miss Trunchbull was saying and several instances in which it was hard to make out the lyrics being sung by the ensemble. I think the latter is partially due to the quick pace of the songs. Don’t get me wrong, at no point are you unsure what’s going on, but lyrical clarity would have been appreciated regardless. Hopefully these are issues that will work themselves out over the course of the show’s run, but I recommend giving the soundtrack a listen beforehand, if you can, so that you’ll be somewhat familiar with the lyrics ahead of time.

Overall, Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical is a magical, imaginative masterpiece. It would be a shame to miss your chance to see it while it’s here. I didn’t want it to be over, and I’ve been wanting to return each night since. As was the case with the movie, I could watch this wonderful show over and over and over again! | Megan Washausen

Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical runs at The Fabulous Fox Theatre through November 1. For ticket information, visit www.fabulousfox.com.

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