Friday, June 12, 2015

ROALD DAHL'S BELOVED CLASSIC "MATILDA THE MUSICAL" ENERGIZES THE AHMANSON

It’s a huge cast show that is colorfully uber-produced beyond belief. More than 30 actors, singers, dancers and performers, plus a world-class technical team of gifted, talented, and incredibly inventive theatrical wizards, all come together in support of one little girl: Matilda, who has a love and passion for books, words, and storytelling that transcends logic.

Evan Gray (top center) and the company of "Matilda The Musical" National Tour.-Photo by Joan Marcus
The company of “Matilda The Musical” National Tour. Photo by Joan Marcus

That’s why it is one of world’s most beloved children’s book and now a musical that will be seen by thousands across the country as its National Tour is launched. “Matilda: The Musical” is based on the novel ‘Matilda’ by the late British author Roald Dahl. Dahl was a writer who understood the power of imagination and the belief in magic when it came to entertaining young children.

The production now on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre (part of Center Theatre Group) in Los Angeles, was awash in tween and teen excitement to such a level that the adults at the opening on Sunday, June 7, probably thought the 2200 seat Ahmanson Theatre was going to explode due to all of the pent-up energy packed into the auditorium. Once the house lights dim, however, and the music begins, all one sees are rapt faces of sons and daughters, along with their parents, with all eyes glued to the stage.


Mabel Tyler, Jennifer Blood in
"Matilda the Musical" - Photo by
Joan Marcus
The story revolves around Matilda Wormwood (Mia Sinclair Jenness, at the performance I attended; Gabby Gutierrez and Mabel Tyler, along with Jenness will alternate the role during the run), an extraordinary little girl who dreams of a better life than the one she is living at home with her non-caring, self- absorbed parents and dull brother. Armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, Matilda dares to take a stand and change her destiny. The first step in her journey toward change begins at her school.
The bullying and fearsome Headmistress Miss Trunchbull (a brilliant and inventive Bryce Ryness), is determined to teach Matilda not to interfere with her rules and regulations concerning any of her students. The edicts of Miss Trunchbull sound suspiciously like those of Miss Hannigan in “Annie” (another musical about young children). However Matilda’s teacher Miss Honey (a caring and sensitive Jennifer Blood) helps the young girl not only survive in her encounters with Headmistress Trunchbull, but helps her at home with her parents played by Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. Wormwood and Cassie Silva as Mrs. Wormwood. The comic relief character of Mrs. Phelps, the school Librarian (Ora Jones), charms as the storytelling ally and listener to all of Matilda’s stories in a warm and sympathetic portrayal, and sports a lovely lilting Jamaican accent in the process.


The company of “Matilda The Musical” National Tour. Photo by Joan Marcus
One of the most entertaining aspects of this production is the talent and energy of the “children ensemble”. Their athleticism, stage presence, poise, and performances are astonishing in actors of such a young age. They make it look easy and lots of fun. One can only imagine, however, the hectic backstage activity taking place with such a large cast of actors, singers, dancers, and technicians all working to make the magic of “Matilda” happen. The special effects in the production are spectacular in their execution; along with the high octane choreography of Peter Darling, giving featured dancer Jaquez Andre Sims as Rudolpho, a chance to strut his stuff.
The production written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin is under the inspired direction of Tony Award winner Matthew Warchus. He has tons of experience and awards and it shows with this highly entertaining and visually impressive musical.
“Matilda: The Musical” performs at the Ahmanson Theatre and runs through July 12, 2015.