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Roald Dahl's Matilda is now Matilda: the Musical at the Walnut Street Theatre

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Nov 29, 2018 10:30am | comments

   


Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s classic Matilda is now a hit musical Matilda: the Musical now playing at the Walnut Street Theatre until January 6. Matilda: the Musical has a Book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Winner of both Tony and Olivier Awards, this 2010 musical is based upon Roald Dahl’s 1988 book for children with dark allusions to such things as diverse as Annie, Great Expectations, Cinderella, Carrie, and Cruella de Vil, all in a luscious, entertaining, witty, and frequently hilarious figgy pudding for the holidays.

 

Jemma Bleu Greenbaum was Matilda for the performance seen November 20. She and Ellie Biron alternate in the role. Matilda was an unwanted baby who became an unloved child in the nasty Wormwood family. Mother wormwood lived for ballroom dancing and spending money, while Father Wormwood was a money-obsessed crook who referred to Matilda as he and boy. Matilda’s brother appeared to be a monosyllabic troglodyte. Matilda survived this family through reading at the library and looking forward to the first day of school. Unfortunately, the school was an oppressive prison of a place where children were first to be broken, then rebuilt to suit. This goal is realized by the evil Miss Trunchbull, headmistress who terrorizes both teachers and students at the school. Miss Trunchbull is gloriously played by Ian Merrill Peakes who triumphs deliciously in horrible female drag. Looking like the child of Shrek and Grendel’s mother, Ian Merrill Peakes is a sensationally evil piece of dirt, cavorting and torturing tykes at every possible turn. Miss Trunchbull is certainly the antithesis of Miss Honey (played by Laura Giknis), who seems almost saintly as Matilda’s teacher who encourages and later loves her.

 

The large cast of children performed like a well-oiled ensemble. They were all amazing as were the adult ensemble of teachers who danced and sang throughout. Kudos should go to director Linda Goodrich for expertly harnessing the forces onstage. Production values were fine indeed: the set by Robert Koharchik looked beautiful, and the lighting by Stuart Duke was gloriously intense. The live orchestra played with pep and style under John Daniels’ direction.

 

Matilda: the Musical is great holiday entertainment for the whole family.

 

Matilda: the Musical is at the historic Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, until January 6. Next up will be Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors. Now playing at Independence Studio 3 is Winter Wonderettes. For information about these shows and the entire Walnut Season, visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org .

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