I have a new favorite musical and it’s called MATILDA THE MUSICAL!!! This literate, darkly funny, empowering, and bizarrely inventive Tony award-winner just hit the Boston Opera House in its first national tour– and don’t you dare miss it! MATILDA THE MUSICAL is based on Roald Dahl’s best-selling novel, and captures the writer’s strange and shadowy sensibility, as does the kooky choreography, the eerily beautiful sets, and this wondrous score peppered by the eccentrically elaborate rhymes of a first class lyricist.
The author of such odd, delightful children’s classics as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach” here relates the story of an emotionally orphaned little girl who must use her talents to overturn the cruel hand she has been dealt. Matilda is a bookish genius born to parents who happen to be nasty money-grubbing ignoramuses–and who wanted a boy. The astounding Lily Brooks O’Briant played Matilda the night I saw it, and held the stage from start to finish with the coolest sangfroid ever despite the sadistic onslaught of her idiot parents. She made me cry, then laugh at her relentless determination to be herself, and never give in. She didn’t crack a smile once, not until the curtain call!! Darcy Stewart and Brandon McGibbon are vivaciously vulgar as Matilda’s parents the smarmy Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood.
Matilda is routinely castigated for everything she says and does including reading Dostoyevsky. It gets worse when she’s packed off to the “Crunchem School” run by a large, mean head mistress named Miss Trunchbull who looks just like her name sounds; she’s a bully who calls the children “maggots” and hales from the “break the child” school of teaching. David Abeles is brilliant in the part, hairy-legged and big-bosomed, crowned with a mean little bun pulled samurai-tight atop an ax-like face. He scared the bejesus out of me even as I laughed out loud at his outlandish wickedness.
The book takes an unexpected twist and features a peculiar, bittersweet story within a story, within a story, involving a kindly teacher named Miss Honey (of course) sung by the sweet-voiced Paula Brancati. This melancholy plot strand curls itself around Matilda and gives the tale a whiff of the otherworldly, as well a dose of cockeyed logic which feels just right.
The supporting ensemble of children were astonishingly distinctive as individual performers, energized with an almost manic frenzy, flying about the stage (once by the pigtails!) tumbling, swinging, and whipping themselves from one number to the next until the second act arrives and all hell breaks loose. It was then that the show achieved a king of euphoria when one hapless child (Ryan Christopher Dever) who had been forced to consume an entire chocolate cake, rebels in a triumphant number busting a cavalcade of exuberant dance moves championing all of us who ever felt out of sync in the world.
Kids will LOVE this. I loved this. You will love this. See MATILDA THE MUSICAL at the Boston Opera House presented by Broadway in Boston through June 26!