Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Matilda the Musical
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Blackbeard

Tom Story and Ensemble
Photo by Stan Barouh
Director Peter Flynn, fresh off his delightful and innovative Into the Woods at Ford's Theatre, makes his Olney Theatre Center debut with Matilda the Musical, a charmer for all ages with a powerhouse lead performance by Emiko Dunn. (Unlike the Broadway and London productions, Olney has only the one designated Matilda, with two understudies.)

The musical by Dennis Kelly (book) and Tim Minchin (music and lyrics) is based on Roald Dahl's book about a 5-year-old genius who triumphs over her selfish and willfully ignorant parents (Christopher Michael Richardson and Tracy Lynn Olivera), helps her beleaguered schoolteacher Miss Honey (Felicia Curry), and fights the injustices of her school's tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull (Tom Story).

Dahl wrote children's stories with a decidedly dark edge, which Kelly's book and Minchin's songs treat with both respect and playfulness. Like Matilda, with her love of books and language, the authors have created an intricate web of stories and relationships: Matilda may be in a bad situation, but she understands that she has to change her own story if she's going to survive.

Dunn gives an emotionally true performance and demonstrates a self-possession beyond her years, but she isn't the only star of this production. Story, whose repertoire encompasses Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, and low comedy, is a fearsome Trunchbull, a grim, humorless athlete of giant stature who can also do a cartwheel. (Story has seven Helen Hayes Award nominations. Now would be a good time to give him the award.)

Curry wins the audience's empathy as a woman with a good heart but few resources, along with Rayanne Gonzales as a kindly librarian. Richardson and Olivera are deliciously over the top in their roles (with invaluable assistance from Pei Lee's costumes), as is Andre Hinds as Mrs. Wormwood's long-legged ballroom dance partner. Matilda's classmates are double cast, six at each performance, and they form a strong ensemble.

Milagros Ponce de León's scenic design uses books as its basic building block, with a proscenium arch and several inner frames constructed from bookshelves, which shimmer and glow under Nancy Schertler's lighting design and Clint Allen's projections. Roc Lee's sound design adds to the sense of unease and terror at school and the moral vacuity at Matilda's home.

Olney Theatre Center
Matilda the Musical
June 21st - July 21st, 2019
Book by Dennis Kelly
Music & lyrics by Tim Minchin
Based on the book Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mrs. Phelps: Rayanne Gonzales
Doctor: Jay Frisby
Mrs. Wormwood: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Mr. Wormwood: Christopher Michael Richardson
Matilda: Emiko Dunn
Michael Wormwood: Michael J. Mainwaring
Miss Honey: Felicia Curry
The Escapologist: Connor James Reilly
The Acrobat: Quynh-My Luu
Miss Trunchbull: Tom Story
Rudolpho: Andre Hinds
Sergei: Jay Frisby
Other parts played by: Michelle E. Carter, Jay Frisby, Ashleigh King, Quynh-My Luu, Michael J. Mainwaring, Calvin Malone, Connor James Reilly, Camryn Shegogue
Bruce: Patrick Ford or Jack St. Pierre
Lavender: Ainsley Deegan or Camiel Warren-Taylor
Nigel: Kai Mansell or Hudson Prymak
Amanda: Nina Brothers or Ellie Coffey
Eric: Sebastian Gervase or Sawyer Makl
Hortensia: Ella Coulson or Eliza Prymak
Directed by Peter Flynn
Choreographer: Byron Easley
Music director: Christopher Youstra
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.orgbr>