A CurtainUp Review
Matilda the Musical
By Elyse SommerThe London review by Lizzie Loveridge
Fortunately, while Matilda is still playing in London, Bertie Carvel is on board as the sadistic head mistress, Miss Trunchbull. As Brian Bedford's Lady Bracknell made The Importance of Being Earnest worth seeing yet another time, so Carvel's bosomy, bully would be reason enough to see Matilda even if the rest of the show's assets weren't as dazzling here as they were over there. That goes for the four American kids alternating as the spunky super gifted little bookworm ( I saw Milly Shapiro but friends and colleagues have given high grades to all) to the rest of the American cast. Lauren Ward who, like Carvel, reprises her role as the supportive but also bullied teacher, was actually the only American in the London production so this is a welcome home coming as well as a reprise.
Lizzie Loveridge's review of Matilda in London sums up what made, and still makes, it so refreshing and entertaining. For starters there's Dennis Kelly's faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl's dark but ultimately bracing 1988 children's novel about a super bright unloved little girl who thanks to a naughty streak and special telekinetic power gains happiness and self-esteem despite her abusive, tasteless parents and a school dominated by imagination crushing rules. Equally important vital is Rob Howell's inventive stage craft, Peter Darling's brilliantly peppy choreography and Tim Minchin's versatile, tuneful music. I'll therefore just add some additional comments to her review. It's re-posted right below the current production notes with a picture of Trunchbull and Miss Honey and also the lovely swing scene.
I must however, preface my own praises with a word about the one aspect of this production that kept me from being as 100% bowled over as Lizzie was. Somebody —Director Matthew Warchus, voice director Andrew Wade, music director David Holcenberg, or someone — should be doing to adjust the auditory problems of the production and perhaps have the kids ease up on sounding British so that less of Tim Minchin's clever story propelling lyrics can actually be heard.
The clarity problem often applies even the dialogue, especially the scenes when Matilda enthralls Mrs. Phelps (Karen Aldridg), the librarian with her continuing adventures in which her uncouth, unloving parents metamorphose into a loving couple she calls the Escapist and the Acrobat.
The way Matilda's story telling is illustrated and accompanied by music adds to the show's eye-popping pleasures. But this puts an enormous strain on the young actor's voice — and, alas, on the audience's ability to hear what she's saying. I should add that I spent most of the intermission, asking a number of youngsters and adults whether they were experiencing similar auditory issues. The adults all had problems understanding the words. The kids seemed either more attuned to this kind of amped up sound or got it all via the stage wizardry and from being Roald Dahl fans and consequently just thrilled to see these characters come to vivid musical life.
That quibble, which is not a minor one, aside, this is indeed a thrilling musical. It's moved very comfortably into the Shubert theater with excellent use made of the aisles and, at one point, the front loges.
The American taking over key roles couldn't be better. My Matilda, Milly Shapiro, has the stage presence of someone three times her age and she and her talented schoolmates execute the demanding dances with incredible skill and satisfyingly capture the revolutionary spirit that finally undoes the monstrous Trunchbull.
Karen Aldridge is warm and appealing as the librarian who, besides Miss Honey her teacher, is the only other supportive adult in Matilda's life. Like Bertie Carvel, Lesli Margherita and Gabriel Ebert as the unloving vulgarian parents make these meanies fun to watch.
The ditzy, dance competition obsessed Mrs. Wormwood is terrific in "Loud" which is a snazzy the satirical rant against educated pursuits. Ebert as her sleazy used car salesman spouse will be a revelation to anyone who saw him in Amy Herzog's non-musical 4000 Miles. Who knew he was such a nimble song and dance man. With his green hair (courtesy of Matildá's being naughty to make up for her mistreatment) and garish green plaïd suit to match. In "Telly" he too proudly proclaims his disregard for book learning with “All I know I learnt from telly.” The actor not only makes Daddy Wormwood a funny but complex character but delivers an amusing tongue-in-cheek audience address vaudeville bit at the end of the intermission (best to rush back from the bathroom if you don't want to miss it).
I've already praised the Peter Darling who also choreographed Billy Elliot but there's no overpraising his contribution to the success of Matilda. This is especially true for the ensemble numbers like the discipline advocating “Smell of Rebellion” in which Trunchbull puts the ensemble through an exhausting routine that includes vault tumbles.
Given that the Brits have sent us their hit with the man who created the role of Matilda's unforgettable, the initial batch of ecstatic reviews and the crowds at the matinee I attended Matilda the Musical will be as big a hit in New York as in London
Scroll past the NY production notes and song list, or go here for The London review by Lizzie Loveridge
New York Production Notes
Book by: Dennis Kelly, based on the Roald Dahl novel
Lyrics and Music by: Tim Minchin
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Choreography: Peter Darling
Cast List: Sophia Gennusa Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro (Matilda), Bertie Carvel (Miss Trunchbull), Gabriel Ebert (Mr. Wormwood) Lesli Margherita (Mrs. Wormwood) and Lauren Ward (Miss Honey) Karen Aldridge (Mrs. Phelps), John Sanders (Sergei) Philip Spaeth (Rudolpho), Other parts variously played by Frenie Acoba,Erica Barnett, Judah Bellamy, Jack Broderick, Ava DeMary,John Arthur Greene,Emma Howard, Nadine Isenegger,Colin Israel,Thayne Jasperson,,Tamika Sonja Lawrence,Luke Mannikus, Madilyn Morrow,Sawyer Nunes, Jared Parker,Celia Mei Rubin,Ryan Steele Betsy Struxness,Samantha Sturm,Heather Tepe, Ben Thompson,Clay Thomson Taylor Trensch, Beatrice Tulchin,Ted Wilson
Set and Costume Design: Rob Howell
Lighting Design: Hugh Vanstone
Sound Design: Simon Baker
Dramaturgy: Jeanie O’Hare
Voice director: Andrew Wade
Musical director: David Holcenberg
Music coordinator: Howard Joines
Stage manager: Kelly A. Martindale
Run Time: Approximately two hours and 40 minutes, including one intermission
Shubert Theatre 225 West 44th Street 212/239-6200
From 3/04/13; opening 4/11/13; open-ended --4 years, but finally closing 1/01/17
Monday - Friday @8pm.Saturday @2 and 8 pm. from 4/16: Tuesday and Thursday @7pm, Wednesday @2 and 8pm, Friday @8pm, Saturday @2 and 8pm, Sunday @3pm
Tickets: $32 - $147
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at April 13th press matinee
Looks are more important than books. — Mrs Wormwood
Children in “When I Grow Up” (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull and Lauren Ward as Miss Honey
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Matilda the Musical
Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Book by Dennis Kelly
Original novel by Roald Dahl
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Starring: Bertie Carvel, Paul Kaye, Lauren Ward, Josie Walker,
The Matildas: Eleanor Worthington Cox, Sophia Kiely, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram
With: Peter Howe, Melanie La Barrie, Matthew Malthouse, Emily Shaw, Verity Bentham, Alistair Parker, Marc Antolin, Nick Searle, Lucy Thatcher, Matthew Clark, Michael Kent, Rachel Moran, Leanne Pinder.
The Children: Ruby Bridle, Jemima Eaton, Ellie Simons, Jake Bailey, James Beesley, Zachary Harris, William Keeler, Alfie Manser, Jaydon Vijn, Lili Laight, Isobelle Molloy, Lucy May Pollard, Toby Murray, Louis Suc, Ted Wilson, Alicia Gould, Jemima Morgan, Annabel Parsons, Oonagh Cox, Fleur Houdijk, Katie Lee, Thomas Atkinson, Callum Henderson Jamie Kaye
Choreography by Peter Darling
Design: Rob Howell
Orchgestrations and Additional Music: Chris Nightingale
Sound: Simon Baker
Lighting: Hugh Vanstone
Illusion: Paul Kieve
Musical Director: Bruce Lee
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes including one interval
Box Office: 0844 412 4652
Booking to 21st October 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st November 2011 performance at The Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London WC2 9HU (Tube: Covent Garden)