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Matilda or Miss Trunchbull?

Matilda or Miss Trunchbull?
Milly Shapiro, Bailey Ryon, Oona Laurence, Matilda The Musical, Sophia Gennusa

Milly Shapiro, Bailey Ryon, Oona Laurence & Sophia Gennusa

I never read other reviews before I write mine but a friend insisted I read the New York Times Review. Did I drink the wrong kool-aid, because I don’t get why Matilda the Musical is considered such a big hit. It is tuneless unless you can count four notes (hideous pop ditties out of the Donovan era), incomprehensible and campy.  It misses the mark for a number for Matilda about telekinesis, which would have at least kept up with Roald Dahl’s intelligent 1988 novel about an abused 5-year-old’s ability to fight back against her tormentors with brains and a power.  That would have been theatrically interesting. Instead we get a paper cup that the wind could have blown over and the writing on the wall is barely seen because this show really is about Miss Trunchbull.

Matilda The Musical,Bertie Carvel

Bertie Carvel

Welcome back to Lauren Ward who embodies Miss Honey, the teacher who sees inside Matilda and fights for her, despite her fear of her aunt, Miss Trunchbull (Bertie Carvel). Ms. Ward’s realistic performance as well as Oona Laurence’s (a look-alike for a younger Wednesday (Addams Family) who played Matilda that night).

The show is as dark as the novel and just as irreverent. The lavish scrabble-like set designed by Rob Howell melts into a David Copperfieldesque world, setting a tone of imprisonment. The direction by Matthew Warchus is fluid, the choreography by Peter Darling ripped off from Spring Awakening is disjointed but energetic and I am sure there will be injuries. The night I was there the show stopped for 15 minutes. They said because of set difficulties but there was a missing person in the tumbling round and I heard an ambulance just after the show restarted.

Matilda The Musical,Gabriel Ebert, Lesli Margherita

Gabriel Ebert and Lesli Margherita

The rest of the characters are caricatures of people. Matilda’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Gabriel Ebert and Lesli Margherita) are hilarious in a TV reality show kind of way. I kept expecting Honey Boo-Boo to pop out. Their TV-addicted son, Michael (Taylor Trensch) is so dumb that when the father and son come out to entertain the audience in the “Telly” song I seriously thought Broadway had gone stupid and I had missed the demise. Could someone please explain to me how this sequence is plausible?

I did think that Jack Broderick as the cake eating Bruce made the most of his moments and he reminded me of another Dahl character – a male version of Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I know Bertie Carvel’s mesmerizing performance is a stand out but so would have Jane Lynch, Mary Testa, Emily Skinner, Victoria Clark or a host of other names. Am I supposed to be wowed over because a man is playing a woman? It’s called drag and it’s been done for eons.

As for Tim Minchin’s lyrics, if they are better than his melodies I don’t know because I could not understand them.
Like reality TV, people will believe the hype. The show will win Tony’s but the best show since Oklahoma, not, unless the kool-aid is spiked. For me I’ll stick with the memorable 1996 movie.

I never read other reviews before I write mine but a friend insisted I read the New York Times Review. Did I drink the wrong kool-aid, because I don’t get why Matilda the Musical is considered such a big hit. It is tuneless unless you can count four notes (hideous pop ditties out of the Donovan era), incomprehensible and campy.  It misses the mark for a number for Matilda about telekinesis, which would have at least kept up with Roald Dahl’s intelligent 1988 novel about an abused 5-year-old’s ability to fight back against her tormentors with brains and a power.  That would have been theatrically interesting. Instead we get a paper cup that the wind could have blown over and the writing on the wall is barely seen because this show really is about Miss Trunchbull.

Welcome back to Lauren Ward who embodies Miss Honey, the teacher who sees inside Matilda and fights for her, despite her fear of her aunt, Miss Trunchbull (Bertie Carvel). Ms. Ward’s realistic performance as well as Oona Laurence’s (a look-alike for a younger Wednesday (Addams Family) who played Matilda that night).

The show is as dark as the novel and just as irreverent. The lavish scrabble-like set designed by Rob Howell melts into a David Copperfieldesque world, setting a tone of imprisonment. The direction by Matthew Warchus is fluid, the choreography by Peter Darling ripped off from Spring Awakening is disjointed but energetic and I am sure there will be injuries. The night I was there the show stopped for 15 minutes. They said because of set difficulties but there was a missing person in the tumbling round and I heard an ambulance just after the show restarted.

The rest of the characters are caricatures of people. Matilda’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Gabriel Ebert and Lesli Margherita) are hilarious in a TV reality show kind of way. I kept expecting Honey Boo-Boo to pop out. Their TV-addicted son, Michael (Taylor Trensch) is so dumb that when the father and son come out to entertain the audience in the “Telly” song I seriously thought Broadway had gone stupid and I had missed the demise. Could someone please explain to me how this sequence is plausible?

I did think that Jack Broderick as the cake eating Bruce made the most of his moments and he reminded me of another Dahl character – a male version of Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I know Bertie Carvel’s mesmerizing performance is a stand out but so would have Jane Lynch, Mary Testa, Emily Skinner, Victoria Clark or a host of other names. Am I supposed to be wowed over because a man is playing a woman? It’s called drag and it’s been done for eons.

As for Tim Minchin’s lyrics, if they are better than his melodies I don’t know because I could not understand them.
Like reality TV, people will believe the hype. The show will win Tony’s but the best show since Oklahoma, not, unless the kool-aid is spiked. For me I’ll stick with the memorable 1996 movie.

Matilda the Musical: The Shubert Theatre

Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. Currently she has a screenplay in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She was the Broadway Informer on the all access cable TV Show “The New Yorkers,” soon to be “The Tourist Channel.” email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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