Stories can transport you to incredible realities, traveling through time, exploring new cultures. Matilda The Musical, based on the book Matilda by Roald Dahl, does that as it tells the story of rebellion in children as an incredibly gifted five-year-old girl fights to change her destiny. Come share the adventure of Matilda The Musical at the Orpheum March 28 - April 2.
Dahl’s story is quite dark, based on verbal and physical abuse and what it means to defy it. However the show remains light spirited by being comedic, appealing to the eye, and comprised largely of a cast of children which appeals to the younger audience. Matilda is packed with important messages and stories. One of my favorites was when Matilda, played splendidly by Jenna Weir, tells a story she creates in her mind. As she invents this ‘made up’ world, special effects lighting, sound, and set made it feel as though I was part of the story. Matilda, the smallest leading woman on Broadway, is more than up to the task of being brave, brilliant, and inspiring while always charmingly mischievous.
The imaginative set helped keep the show light as it centered around the alphabet and reading, with letter block designs and bookshelves rising the height of the stage. A brief, but lovely touch in the song “When I Grow Up” featured four swings that the kids danced and climbed upon. Appealing to nostalgic childhood memories, they frolicked and soared out and above the mesmerized audience. It was as if the audience could feel the wind in their hair and thrill in the pit of their stomachs. Another heart-warming touch was Miss Honey’s living quarters. Small and crammed only with essential living materials, Miss Honey’s comfort was contagious in spite of the simple and plain surroundings.
The only distraction in the fine performance was the sound and occasional microphone trouble with feedback or cutting out. That’s out of the actor’s control, but was always handled professionally. Additionally, some words seemed lost or muffled during some of the faster songs. This may be attributable to the mic trouble or the use of British accents, but was unfortunate because every song played a key role to the plot. I found one of the most useful tools to the storytelling to be the orchestra. Without accompaniment the stories painted by the songs wouldn’t have been as impactful. The pit matched the emotion of the songs, whether that be the fury of the student’s rebellion, the delicateness of Miss Honey, or Miss Trunchbull’s rottenness and was like a movie soundtrack enveloping audience in the stories unfolding before them. Not only was the music filled with emotion, but it also provided a backbone for the actor’s movement which featured not only intensive dancing, but also crisp actions like head turns.
I found myself invested from beginning to end whether it was the enchanting stories Matilda tells or the harsh reality she is living. Though the mics were disruptive at times, the music’s charm, whimsical set, and clever storytelling more than compensated for any difficulty.