Matilda The Musical is the delightful tale of a little girl who survives the emotional abuse of her narcissistic, conniving and stupid parents, and the spirit crushing conduct of the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Elementary. The book upon which this musical is based was written by Roald Dahl, so we know that there will be both harrowing and hilarious moments as the story unfolds. Matilda survives these wretched adults because she is a precocious reader and a gifted storyteller. And she thrives because she has support: her Grade One classmates and two mentors (the librarian and her teacher).
The role of Matilda is demanding. The night I attended it was performed by the talented Hannah Levinson. She shone, and she was capably supported by her ‘classmates’ who are also triple threat performers. Matilda’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Brandon McGibbon and Darcy Stewart) were suitably despicable, and the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy), was the embodiment of a mean spirit. The roles of teacher and librarian (Miss Honey-Paula Brancati and Mrs. Phelps-Keisha T. Fraser) were understated by comparison. Both were performed with engagement and compassion.
Kudos to Tim Minchin who created the tuneful music and spirited lyrics and to Rob Howell who designed a set that incorporates colourful and eclectic tiles from the game of Scrabble.
If you plan to see Matilda, do take one or more children with you. The children surrounding me were totally absorbed in the story, as were their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Matilda is a superb introduction to the joy of live performance.
Matilda The Musical is playing at Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto until October 16, 2016.
Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of one family’s journey through palliative care.