Thursday, April 20, 2017

Matilda the Musical Brings Laughter to Midtown

Last night, my companion and I had the sheer delicious pleasure of attending, "Matilda the Musical," at Atlanta's Fox Theatre.

Being quite familiar with the mid-1990s movie, we were filled with anticipation to see the musical adaptation and what kind of young talent it would produce for us.  I am happy to report that we were not let down.  Not only did this play meet our expectations, I believe it raised the bar even higher.

Matilda is the story of a young girl born to an unruly and horribly rude and obnoxious family.  When we meet Matilda, she is school age and her Parents enroll her in school where a horrible head mistress, Miss Trunchbull (an aging and former Olympic disc-throwing star) runs the show.

As in the movie adaptation of Ron Dahl's book, we watch precious and brilliant Matilda outwit the horrible adults around her while also befriending and falling in love with her school teacher, Miss Honey.  It the classic story of a young girl with no one to love her winding up with her own loving family in the end.

The stage set is amazing.  There is a huge library set that is used throughout the musical, as well as the school room setting, and Matilda's home.  I loved the way the musical used the alphabet throughout the show.  If you go, remember to take note and watch all the many ways, the alphabet is presented and used.  I believe it's a true witness to children and that first schooling experience of being introduced to the alphabet and learning to read.

Now - the characters.  Who hasn't seen this film a million times and had a love/hate relationship with Miss Trunchbull?  The incredible Dan Chameroy plays the mean and abusive headmistress.  Listen.  He could not have duplicated her any more perfectly.  His voice, his mannerisms, his facial expressions.  Everything.  You must see him to believe it.  He had our audience rolling with laughter.  Such a timeless and iconic film character.  (Ron Dahl is always great at creating iconic literary figures.  Think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

Other fantastic characters in this musical are of course Matilda's parents - a Father who sells (dishonestly) used cars and a flamboyant, want-to-be ballroom dancer Mother, neither of which have the time or desire to know anything about or love their little daughter Matilda.  Matt Harrington and Darcy Stewart are both wonderful in these roles.  And, as a delicious little side note - you must see Matlida's Mother's Italian ballroom dancer teacher, Rudolpho.  He is so funny and charismatic.  Truly had us in stitches.  Loved him!  Thank you, Stephen Diaz, for bringing this character to life.

The character of Matilda is played by three different young actresses for this tour.  On the night we visited, Matilda was played by ten-year old Jenna Weir.  Previous experience includes the Toronto production of Matilda as well as a variety of tv credits.  

I think the thing that is so amazing to me with each of these productions that have children in them is the level of talent they possess.  These kids are 9, 10, 11 years old, and they are dancing to tightly-choreographed numbers, singing, and memorizing what must be books of dialogue.  How in the world do they do it?  Astonishing!

And speaking of musical numbers, the soundtrack for this musical was great.  Even though we didn't know any of the numbers beforehand, each one was relevant and wonderful.  Tim Minchin has done a great job with the music and lyrics.

One other thing I always like to mention is about the play in relation to taking children.  Our showing had a lot of kids in it.  This musical is perfectly fine for your littles.  No profanity or nudity.  Just a lot of good belly laughs.  In fact, at the end of intermission, Matt Harrington (Mr. Wormwood) came out and gave a disclaimer to all the children in the audience not to replicate anything they saw in the play.  Perfect!

Matilda plays The Fox Theatre through April 23.  Tickets are $33.50 - $128.50 and may be purchased though or by calling 1.855.285.8499.  Need a sneak peek?  Take a look at a production number from the 2013 Tony Awards:

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