It is often noted that most of the cast of Matilda is only children. However, the word “only” does not fit into that sentence at all, for the children were spectacular and shone like the theatre stars they are, making the musical Matilda and very special one indeed.
The story begins as Matilda is being brought into this world by a mother insistent that she is not pregnant and that she needs to get onto a plane and go to Paris to compete in a dance competition. While other parents gloat about how their children are “miracles” and “angels”, Matilda’s parents rant about how terrible she is.
As she grows up, she learns to distance herself from her family of her dance addict mother, her car salesman father, and her seemingly brainless brother by reading, storytelling, visiting the library, and serving justice, even if it means being a little bit naughty.
Things change, however, when she is sent to a jail-like school with a merciless headmistress Miss Trunchbull that believes in brutal, painful punishments.
She is extremely smart, but can she survive school? Even if she does, what will become of her when her father makes a terrible mistake?
The musical Matilda truly is a spectacle, but honestly has both positives and negatives.
There were some moments of amazing, beautiful singing, but mostly the music was loud belting, which can often be mistaken for yelling. Also, it was sometimes difficult to understand the lyrics the ensemble was singing. These details were especially true in the first act.
That being said, there were some brilliant aspects of the musical too. The choreography, lighting, and set-work for Matilda were genius and definitely added to the story and effect of the musical.
For example, the set that framed the stage for the duration of the show appeared to be made of tiles, some blank and some with letters. Within this set, audience members could find hidden words that pertained to the storyline. This added another creative element to the show.
One last important thing to understand about this musical, though, is that it is an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book, so while it is a children’s story and thus a family musical on the surface, it has all the underlying darkness that Roald Dahl is responsible for. For viewers old enough to catch it, there is some dark humor and a melancholy theme of child abuse.
At the very least, this musical is one with a happy ending, even if it is not the fairy-tale type we are accustomed to.
For those ready to embrace the magical story of this musical, Matilda is playing at the Buell Theatre through September 20.