Children are Maggots
Matilda is one of those shows grandparents and parents can enjoy, along with the kids. It’s based on the British children’s story and while much of it is adult humour, kids will really enjoy it. It’s typical of author Roald Dahl’s books – an evil adult makes life horrible for children, but somehow the kids prevail and the malevolent adult gets his or her comeuppance. This dark musical with the happy ending is now on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto.
Matilda is a lovely, precocious child who devours books and is the delight of her librarian and her teacher. But her low-life parents are ashamed of her – Dad is a crooked used car salesman, and mother is an amateur competitive dancer who never wanted to have kids. Big brother is a lazy couch potato. The three of them are devoted to watching the telly and don’t understand why Matilda bothers to read books.
At school her teacher, Miss Honey, sees Matilda’s amazing potential, but the cruel headmistress treats Matilda and the other children terribly. So Matilda writes her own fantasy stories which she shares with Miss Phelps the librarian. But are they fantasy? You’ll have to see the show to find out!
The musical retains the British setting, unlike like the movie of the same name, which was adapted and Americanized by Danny DeVito. He starred as Matilda’s father and his wife, Rhea Perlman played the mother. While the movie was well-done, I enjoyed the British tone of the stage version more.
The very demanding role of Matilda is shared on a rotating basis by three little girls: Hannah Levinson, Jaime MacLean, and Jenna Weir. We saw Hannah Levinson, and she was amazing. Little Hannah has just the right amount of sass and sparkle, and acts the role with the skill of a veteran of the stage.
Paula Brancati shines as the kind and loving Miss Honey. Brancati’s clear, bell-like singing voice is perfect, particularly in the song My House. Dan Chamroy is funny and frightening at the same time as Miss Trunchbull. He/she is evil personified and grows nastier as the story progresses. Brandon McGibbon is hilarious as Matilda’s father, Mr. Wormwood. His quirky hop and skip step adds to the smarmy salesman comedy.
The children’s choreography is outstanding. The youngsters, some of them very small, dance around and over the school desks. They do an amazing number with school yard swings, followed by even more challenging acrobatics with a gymnastic vault.
Unfortunately, at times, some characters are too shrill with too much yelling, and the audience can’t always understand what the character is saying or hear the lyrics of the song. The actress playing Mathilda’s mother sings a song called Loud and indeed she is supposed to be loud, but not at the expense of comprehending her words. The yelling of her lines detracts from the fact that this should have been a comedic role. As well, one child has the important role of Lavender, but the humour is lost in her delivery as she shouts continually.
Nevertheless, this is a very funny, cleverly written show, and while this may sound like a cliché – the whole family will enjoy it.
Matilda continues with eight shows a week at Ed Mirvish Theatre until Janary 8, 2017. Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.
Based on the book by Roald Dahl
Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Book by Dennis Kelly
Resident Director Corey Agnew
Musical Direction by Matthew Smedal
Choreographed by Ellen Kane and Kate Dunn
Performed by Hannah Levinson, Jaime MacLean & Jenna Weir, Paula Brancati, Dan Chameroy et al
Produced by David Mirvish, Royal Shakespeare Co., & The Dodgers
Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto
Extended to January 8, 2017.
Reviewed by Mary Alderson