Saturday, September 20, 2014

Matilda the Musical ***

Except for “Oliver” and “A Christmas Story,” I have not cared for musicals with lots of children in them. That plus high ticket prices kept me away from this hit from London for a year and a half. However, when orchestra seats for under $100 became available, I decided to give it a try. The production values are top of the line. Rob Howell’s set design is one of the cleverest I have seen in several years; his costumes are fine too. Peter Darling’s choreography is spirited and often ingenious. The direction by Matthew Warchus is seamless and assured. The producers have kept the show in fine shape despite multiple cast changes. The current cast is quite good. Christopher Sieber is a hoot as Miss Trunchbull, Alison Liff makes a sympathetic Miss Honey, and Matt Harrington and Lesli Margherita are delightfully over the top as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. Matilda was played at my performance by Eliza Holland Madore, a tiny powerhouse. The other children and the secondary adult roles are well cast too. The curtain call number was among the best I have seen. So why did I admire the show more than I liked it? Roald Dahl’s story didn’t really engage me, at least not as presented in Dennis Kelly’s book, and Tim MInchin’s music and lyrics seemed merely serviceable. I liked it better than I expected to, but found it a bit chilly at its heart. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.

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