Children made up nearly a quarter of the population of the United States in 2016, yet many theatre pieces rarely feature children as the leading character. Sure, there’s the classic Oliver! or 1977’s Annie, but no modern musicals stick out with a child as the main character- that is except for Matilda the Musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2013. Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s story, seven time Olivier and five time Tony award winning Matilda tells the story of an intelligent young girl caught in an unfortunate home and school life, and what she does to change her situation. The musical, directed by Matthew Warchus, has an incredible score and an equally captivating aesthetic, but the cast is the true pièce de résistance.
Matilda the Musical is filled with a vast array of different characters and actors who make the show entertaining with their contrasting performances. Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood, played by Matt Harrington and Darcy Stewart respectively, provide comedy throughout the show, while Jennifer Bowles, as Matilda’s school teacher Miss Honey, gives the audience tenderness. The true star of the show, however, is the young heroine of the story. Matilda, played at this performance by Jenna Weir, was magnificent. Her dauntless performance as the title character was the highlight of the show. She stood out as a strong performer and took command of the stage. In a show filled with large dance numbers and eccentric songs, one of the best moments of the show comes from the song “Naughty”. This solo is sung early in the show by Matilda. Weir’s comedic timing and childhood charm make the number one of the finest in the show. Watching a child with so much talent lead a production of this caliber is like watching a baby duckling fearlessly cross a busy street.
The music in Matilda the Musical, written by Tim Minchin, has a very alternative type of sound. From rock numbers to soft ballads, the creative score allowed for an entertaining show filled with variety, as did the choreography. The choreography, by Peter Darling was not only intricate and challenging, it was executed flawlessly. In particular, the movement in “The School Song” was rousing. The set, designed by Rob Howell, also provided much entertainment. Large spelling blocks brought the whole world together. Artistically, Matilda is a powerhouse. The actors, music, choreography, and set all work together to create a very pleasing production.
Despite all this, there were a few blunders during the production. On more than one occasion, microphones cut out and a loud screeching noise occurred. There was also inconsistency in regards to accents. These issues, however, were handled well by the cast, and in the end didn’t have any mass effect on the show.
Matilda tells the dark story of abuse and neglect, but also weaves in an inspiring lesson. While just as spunky as Matilda, little orphan Annie sings only about hoping for a better life tomorrow, while Matilda makes note of the fact that “nobody but me is going to change my story”. Matilda reminds us that sometimes it is the littlest people who can make the biggest difference in the world. This message, combined with superb talent, makes Matilda the Musical a must see.