Posted in based on a book by Roald Dahl and a movie of the same name, Matilda, Matthew Warchus director, musical theater, Peter Darling, Roald Dahl, Tim Michin, Tony winner

"Matilda" Is Just "Right"

Sometimes coming late to the party isn’t so bad. While others were giddy (or jaded), you’re less likely to be swept away by the fresh and the new.

You feel a little out of it, but being apart (rather than “a part of”) can make for greater objectivity. Sure there are expectations… by now, you’ve heard a lot about the production, but with the lapsed time, you have a chance to see a bigger picture, and, of course, more clearly.

The opening scene of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda, The Musical” in a photo © Joan Marcus

The party in question is the children’s revolution known as “Roald Dahl’s Matilda, The Musical,” being held for a little over a year now at Broadway’s Schubert Theatre. The revelers are a cast of talented youngsters and their adult counterparts in short pants who rise up under the tyranny of a demented headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Ben Thompson, at this moment.)

Their cause is led by Matilda (the talented Gabriella Pizzolo, one of four young leads) and supported by the sweetly ineffectual Miss Honey (the affecting Jill Paice.) At home, Matilda is bullied but not beaten or even bowed by ignorant and self-absorbed parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (the excellent Matt Harrington and superb Lesli Margherita.)

Philip Spaeth as Rudolpho, Jill Paice as Miss Honey and Lesli Margherita as Mrs. Wormwood.
Photo © Joan Marcus

Mr. Wormwood is a schemer who gives the used car sales profession a very bad name, He dotes on his doltish son, Michael (Taylor Trensch), and calls Matilda “boy,” while watching “Telly” with his son on his lap. Mrs. Wormwood dotes on her ballroom dance partner, Rudolpho (Phlip Spaeth) and nags Matilda for reading too much;  “looks, not books,” is her advice.

Much of the cast has rolled over since Bertie Carvel was nominated for a Best Actor Tony as the original Miss Trunchbull, but Lesli Margherita originated her part as Matilda’s loopy mother; her performance is delightfully flighty. Matt Harrington, as the current Mr. Wormwood, brings the vaudeville to “Matilda” with a lot of dash and swarmy charm; he is dispicably likeable. (His predecessor, Gabriel Ebert won the 2013 Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical.) The beguiling Karen Aldridge has returned as Matilda’s champion, the librarian, Mrs. Phelps, who is moved to shout outloud when Matilda tells her stories.

Jill Paice is Miss Honey. Photo
© Joan Marcus

The book, based on Roald Dahl’s children’s story, by Dennis Kelly won the 2013 Tony for Best Book of A Musical. Tim Minchin’s tunefull score and clever lyrics (he was a nominee but lost out to Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots”) add to the many pleasures of seeing “Matilda.” 

“Matilda” is an unexpected musical, with a little touch of “Naughty” and a lot of “Miracle.” 

The cast, under the direction of Matthew Warchus, and dance guidance of choreographer Peter Darling, deliver a rousing entertainment. The letter blocks that decorate the stage are just one of the inspired touches on the fine set design by Rob Howell (who is also responsible for the costumes.)

Come to the party, it really is not too late!

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