Matilda the Musical, playing through April 2 at the Orpheum Theatre, is a delight from start to finish. And I am so relieved! I had seen the show back in 2011 at the Cambridge Theatre in London, and was so enchanted by it that I wasn't sure I even wanted to see the national tour for fear that it wouldn't live up to that original experience.
You may be familiar with Matilda through the 1996 film, which starred Mara Wilson as the title character with Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito as her horrid parents, the Wormwoods. However, Matilda is based on the 1988 Roald Dahl book, and the visuals are influenced by the original illustrations by Quentin Blake, who also created the Crunchem Hall logo that graces the children's blazers on stage.
|Jennifer Bowles as Miss Honey and Gabby Gutierrez as Matilda.
Photo by Tim Trumble.
The musical's script is by Dennis Kelly, best known in Great Britain for his television and theater writing, primarily for adult audiences. Though a seemingly odd team to adapt a beloved children's book to the stage, Minchin and Kelly turned out a play that suits the darker side of Dahl, who didn't condescend to children in his writing. Parental neglect, bullying, conspiracy, and murder all coexist in this piece with the love of literature and the joys and fears of childhood, all with catchy tunes and clever wordplay.
The production is wonderful, as directed by Matthew Warchus, with ambitious and well-executed choreography by Peter Darling. The sets and costumes are designed by Rob Howell, with sound design by Simon Baker, and lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, and illusions designed by Paul Kieve. The production closely resembles the one I saw in London, and all aspects of the production are admirable in creating a fantastic world in which to spend two and a half hours. I know I'm going on and on, but it's really a wonderful show, and I want to give credit where it's due.
|Dan Chameroy as Miss Trunchbull.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
|The three Matildas: Jenna Weir, Gabby Gutierrez (who we saw)
and Jaime MacLean. Photo by Tim Trumble.
|"Revolting Children" (that's the song, not a judgement).
The company of Matilda. Photo by Joan Marcus.
In short, go see this show! If you love musical theater, children's literature, reading, books, humor, anything British, excellent stagecraft, or talented performers, just go. And then go home and read Matilda. The book is delightful in its own right and you're never too grown up to read Roald Dahl.
|Don't take pictures in the theater, kids. Not even before the show. Seriously.
And yes, we were scolded by the usher. But in a lovely British accent.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty!