Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Matilda the Musical
Also see Richard's reviews of Russ Lorenson: As Long as I'm Singin' and Call Me Miss Birds Eye: A Celebration of Ethel Merman, Eddie's reviews of West Side Story and Hay Fever and Patrick's reviews of The Pirates of Penzance and Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter
Matilda the Musical has brought Ronald Dahl's story of the tremendously gifted little girl to life. It follows closely his 1988 novel. Matilda is a skillful storyteller who is endowed with special powers all her own. Most of the action takes place at a quirky school in England under the care of the compassionate Miss Honey. However, the teacher is responsible to the obnoxious headmistress Agatha Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who calls the children "maggots."
Tim Minchin's music and lyrics are haphazardly joyous, delightfully nasty, and creative. They exude humor without veering toward haughtiness. Dennis Kelly's script is clever. It never shirks the nastiness or Matilda's feelings of rejection and loneliness or when the Miss Trunchbull is hurling young girls by their pigtails into space. Rob Howells's towering set designs are awesome, especially the set that includes a wild mosaic of letter tiles that look like something from a Scrabble set. There are enchanting, energetic dance routines by Peter Darling of Billy Elliot fame, involving the children at the school. Director Matthew Warchus weds moments of impressive scenes and others with flashes of real tenderness.
Mabel Tyler (one of three girls playing the title role, with Gabby Gutierrez and Mia Sinclair Jenness) has strong vocal chops. However, on opening night there were times that I could not understand the lyrics due to an overly loud sound system. She beautifully plays the role of the brainy child with self-confidence. Some of the lines are delivered by the kids at a fast rate and mostly in yelling fashion; I heard people say they could understand about half of what was said.
Bryce Ryness gives a brilliant performance as headmistress Miss Trunchbull. He plays the role in outlandish drag with billowing shoulders that Joan Crawford would envy. When he sings such words as "And you may bet your britches/This headmistress/Finds the foul odifer-ous-ness/Wholly olfactorily insulting," it's with a clear and vibrant voice. He reminds me of those great British actors like Sir Lawrence Olivier or Sir Ralph Richardson who enunciate every word perfectly.
Quinn Mattfeld and Cassie Silva are sidesplitting as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, the parents of Matilda, along with their idiot son played very well by Danny Tieger. Mattfeld and Silva both have knockout singing voices and Cassie Silva sounds a lot like Vivian Blain with a cold in Guys and Dolls. Jennifer Blood gives a charming performance as Miss Honey and has thematic resonance singing "This Little Girl" and "My House."
Bottom line: Children will enjoy Matilda's pleasurable mix of and make-believe and cheekiness and adults will savor it for the same reason.
Matilda the Musical plays through August 15th, 2015 at Orpheum Theatre. For tickets call 888-746-1799. For more information on the tour, visit us.matildathemusical.com/tour. For the complete list of upcoming SHN performance go to www.shnsf.com. Coming up next is an opulent production of The Phantom of the Opera opening at the Orpheum Theatre on August 19th and running through October 4th.