Roald Dahl’s “Matilda the Musical” now appearing at the Oriental Theatre as part of Broadway In Chicago’s 2016 season is a kids dream, come to life. With a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, Dahl’s fairy tale takes us on a trip of a special child, who overcomes being bullied because of all things, she reads books. Her father is also upset that she is a girl instead of a second son (the first one is nothing to brag about, for sure). Matilda is able to overcome the obstacles placed before her and stand up for what she believes to be right. She does so, often, by bending the rules.
Her hunger and thirst for knowledge allows her to read book after book and at an early age, she shows just how powerful the mind can be. She learns a great deal from these books and finds herself living some of the dreams that have come to her from the writings she has read.This is an unusual musical in that we do not hum any tunes on the way out. We do however learn some great lessons about how one can make their own changes. This is a fairly long musical in two acts, but one that will keep your attention. “Matilda the Musical” starts with a birthday party, her fifth. There are three girls who play this role on alternate performances. Tonight, it was Savannah Grace Elmer (the others are Sarah McKinley Austin and Lily Brooks O’Briant), a charmer from start to finish. In many cases, when someone this young takes the stage, and spends a great deal of the time onstage, they tend to not hold the stage. This young lady does so.
In this production, her classmates are a very important part of the story-telling process. They are as follows: Bruce (the incredibly adorable Ryan Christopher Dever), Lavender (Madison Smith), Nigel (Trey Middleton), Amanda (Austyn Johnson), Eric (Aristotle Rock), Alice (Cassidy Hagel), Hortensia (Heidi Friese) and Tommy (Jordan Hall). These kids are a very important part of making this show work. I guess the only problem with these youngsters is that they seem to speak faster than we can hear. I know this sounds silly, but often, in particular, when they are doing accents, young actors tend to “rush the lines” making it difficult for the audience to catch the dialogue. This can cause them to get lost, and then the story makes little or no sense.
Matilda’s parent are played by Cassie Silva (she is a dancer) and Quinn Mattfield (a used car salesman). Cassie’s dance partner, Rudolpho ( the very graceful and agile Michael Graceffa) puts on a great display with her in a number that will remind you of “Dancing with the Stars” , but without the stars. Then there is Mrs Phelps ( Chicago favorite Ora Jones) the librarian who tends to Matilda’s thirst for knowledge and listens to her stories, Miss Honey ( a solid performance by Jennifer Blood) her teacher and the school headmistress, Miss Trunchbull ( a comic touch by David Abeles, yes , it is a drag role) who bullies each and every child as if they were “her” playthings.
The ensemble players, who truly make this show work are: Ian Michael Stuart, Danny Tieger (as older brother Michael), Justin Packard, Ashley Elizabeth Hale, Esther Antoine, Tony d’Alelio, Stephen Diaz, Kim Sava, and Darius Wright. Many of these performers take on smaller roles, but as you know, without the ensemble players, a musical just wouldn’t have the pizzaz we expect. The story delivers a powerful message about being bullied and how knowledge can only help in overcoming this.
This production will only be here through April 10th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $25- $123 (this is on the high side) and can be purchased at any of the Broadway in Chicago theaters, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. You can also purchase tickets at any Ticketmaster outlet. The Oriental Theatre is located at 24 West Randolph (between State Street and Dearborn). By the way public transportation makes it easy to get to the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Matilda the Musical”
Here is Carol’s review
*** Recommended*** I had hoped to take my almost seven-year-old granddaughter to see the stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book, “Matilda The Musical”, but since it was spring break, she was off skiing in Colorado. Now, I’m glad she was away. Honestly, I don’t know what the buzz was all about. Child abuse as comedy just didn’t work for me. “Matilda The Musical” seemed to drag on and on, so I give it 2 ½ Spotlights.
Although the music is cheerful, it all sounded the same – a little too perky for me. Then, I couldn’t understand the words to any of the songs. While the orchestra was a little on the loud side and the microphones were on the low side, I think the real problem was diction. The cast, particularly the children, were drilled on choreography but not on enunciation!
According to the kids sitting near me opening night, “Matilda The Musical” is nothing like the movie. Of course, the movie, starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman, Americanized the story. The stage version goes back to England.
Three girls are sharing the role of Matilda, Sarah McKinley Austin, Savannah Grace Elmer and Lily Brooks O’Brien. On opening night, O’Brien was very strong in the role.
Matilda’s parents really didn’t want her. Her father, Mr. Wormwood (Quinn Mattfeld), already had his son, Michael (Danny Tieger), her mother, Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) was too busy doing the salsa with her partner, Rudolpho (Michael Graceffa). Matilda, who loved to read, just didn’t fit into her family. In fact, her father persisted in thinking she was a boy.
Matilda loved to play pranks on her father – dying his hair green, gluing a hat to his head – and the broad humor worked. By the way, I think Mattfeld‘s body is 75% rubber, some of his moves were pure contortionism. On the other hand, Matilda’s telekinesis (where does that come from and how does it work is never explained) gets some rather cheesy special effects.
Matilda’s happy place is the library where she tells serialized stories about The Escape Artist (Justin Packard) and The Acrobat (Ashley Elizabeth Hale) to her friend, Mrs. Phelps (Ora Jones).
She really likes her teacher, Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood), who recognizes her intelligence. As she meets the other children, she also learns about Miss Trunchbull (David Abeles) who lives to punish the students in rather horrible ways.
“Matilda The Musical” runs through April 10th at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago. Running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with an intermission. Performances are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Wednesdays at 2:00 and 7:30; Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00; and Sundays at 2:00 and 7:30. Tickets range from $25-$123. FYI (800) 775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com or www.ticketmaster.com.