Thursday, October 29, 2015

MATILDA THE MUSICAL • The Fox

The Fox Theatre’s regional premiere of “Matilda,” a British import that has won multiple awards, has the power of knowledge and empowerment at its heart, with a little genius at its center, who ultimately conquers the adults who try to keep her down.

Matilda Wormwood (Mabel Tyler) was born to possibly the worst parents on the face of the planet. Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) is a flighty, ballroom dancing obsessed mom, and Mr. Wormwood (Quinn Mattfeld), a less than honorable car salesman with quite a head of hair, is a dad dismissive of Matilda, still unable to accept she’s a girl, and not the second son he had hoped for. Both parents are infuriated with Matilda’s love of books and her voracious reading, and totally oblivious to her extraordinary intelligence. Matilda's only solace is found at the library, where she captivates the librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Ora Jones), with her stories. Unfortunately, things get worse for Matilda once she’s enrolled in Crunchem Hall Elementary, a school that’s run by a tyrannical Miss Trunchbull (Bryce Ryness in drag), who is determined to make the kids’ lives a living hell, often referring to them as maggots. Luckily for Matilda, there’s Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood), a teacher at the school who’s an ally to the kids and an admirer of Matilda’s brilliance, but also under the thumb of the school's headmistress. Matilda comes to learn that Miss Honey also had a sad childhood, and together, they conspire to stand up to Trunchbull.

Mabel Tyler (Matilda Wormwood)
and Jennifer Blood (Miss Honey)
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
I’ve never read Dahl’s novel, but I imagine in book form, the airheaded nature of most of the adults would come off as a little less ridiculous than it struck me in the musical adaptation. But then again, that ridiculousness makes the points of the show more palpable -- especially for kids, because after all, the kids in the show are the ones who ultimately triumph over the adults, and in fine fashion. Tyler, one of the three rotating Matildas, was marvelous on opening night, making it easy to cheer her on, and Ryness as the former Olympic hammer-throwing champion, Miss Trunchbull, is about as over-the-top nasty as you could imagine, and he successfully milks every line for comic effect. Blood and Jones turn in great performances as the sympathetic adults, and Mattfeld and Silva are great as Matilda’s silly parents. Musically, the ensemble members handle “Revolting Children” and “When I Grow Up” beautifully (the huge swings in the latter number present a great set piece), but the production’s treble-heavy sound, and maybe the clipped nature of the line deliveries, posed a problem. Not being familiar with the story, I could barely understand many of the lines nor most of the lyrics. A quick read of the Wikipedia article beforehand would have served me well. Rob Howell’s scenic design is a clever mix of lettered blocks and tiles, and his costume design ranges from the Crunchem school uniforms to the more outlandish attire of the Wormwood parents.

Bryce Ryness (Miss Trunchbull)
and Mabel Tyler (Matilda Wormwood)
and The Company of Matilda The Musical National Tour
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Audio issues aside, it’s a show that has its share of magical moments, and will charm adults and kids alike. Just read a synopsis before you go. It’s playing at the Fox until the first.


MATILDA THE MUSICAL

Music/lyrics by Tim Minchin
Book by Dennis Kelly, based on Roald Dahl’s  children's novel
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Blvd.
through November 1 | tickets: $30 - $88
Performances Tuesday through Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2pm & 7:30pm, Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm

Danny Tieger (Michael Wormwood),
Cassie Silva (Mrs. Wormwood)
and Quinn Mattfeld (Mr. Wormwood)
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Cast
Matilda: Mabel Tyler
Miss Honey: Jennifer Blood
Mr. Wormwood: Quinn Mattfeld
Miss Trunchbull: Bryce Ryness
Mrs. Wormwood: Cassie Silva
Mrs. Phelps: Ora Jones
Nigel: Cal Alexander
Amanda: Kayla Amistad
Ensemble/Ass’t Dance Captain: Michael Fatica
Acrobat: Natalie Wisdom
Ensemble: John Michael Fiumara
Ensemble: Shonica Gooden
Bruce: Evan Gray
Alice: Cassidy Hagel
Tommy: Maliki Hurd
Dance Captain/Ensemble: Michael Jablonski
Ensemble: Stephanie Martignetti
Hortensia: Megan McGuff
Escape Artist: Ian Michael Stuart 
Swing: Serena Quadrato
Eric: Aristotle Rock
Rudolpho: Jaquez Andre Sims
Doctor/Sergei: Ian Michael Stuart
Michael Wormwood: Danny Tieger
Lavender: Serena Quadrato  
Ensemble: Darius Wright


The Company of Matilda The Musical National Tour
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Creative
Scenic, Costume Designer: Rob Howell
Sound Designer: Simon Baker
Lighting Designer: Hugh Vanstone
Choreographer: Peter Darling
Orchestrator: Chris Nightingale
Illusion: Paul Kieve
Associate Choreographer: Kate Dunn
Voice Director: Andrew Wade
Music Director: Matthew Smeadal
Children’s Music Director: Bill Congdon
Production Stage Manager: Victoria Navarro
Stage Manager: Mitchell B. Hodges

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