MATILDA THE MUSICAL earns a standing ovation at the Orpheum Theatre

MATILDA THE MUSICAL. Book by David Kelly. Music and lyrics by Tim Minchim. Based on the book by Roald Dahl. Presented  by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Dodgers. SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.

888-746-1799 or July 15 – August 15, 2015.

MATILDA THE MUSICAL earns a standing ovation at the Orpheum Theatre. Rating: ★★★★☆

There is much to like about Matilda the Musical, the multi-award winning play that was imported from England, was a smash hit on Broadway and now is on its second stop of the first national road show. It is based on the Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name. The musical book by Dennis Kelly is apparently faithful to the written book (this reviewer was not familiar with it) and the music and lyrics by Tim Minchin have been highly praised. The colourful staging, hilarious costumes and comedic acting add pizzazz to the evening. The defect is in the 2500 seat Orpheum Theatre’s sound system that is less than optimal and excessively loud burying many of the lyrics. With that caveat out of the way, the evening is filled with eclectic music that carries the storyline and a fine cast of adults to match the shenanigans of a plethora of rambunctious children.

Three children (Gabby Gutierrez, Mia Sinclair Jennes and Mabel Tyler) alternate in the lead role of Matilda who “travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village” reading books.” On opening night in San Francisco it was diminutive, clear voiced Mabel Tyler who took centre-stage to play the precocious 5 year old that through thick and thin saves the day with her honesty aided by telekinetic powers.

The adults do not take a back seat to the children even though they are outnumbered by a ratio of five to one. They include home-grown Olympic athlete Bryce Ryness in almost drag playing the wicked Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the second rate school populated by the kids she calls “maggots” who almost steals the show. The protector of the maggots is Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood) the teacher who befriends Matilda and is perfect in the part. Along with her fine singing voice displays physical agility.  Cassie Siva and Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. and Mrs Wormwood are allowed to be almost likeable villains even though they mistreat their unwanted daughter Matilda. Then there is Ora Jones as the sympathetic librarian providing books to our soon to be heroine and is fascinated by her story telling.

The staging (Ryan Emmons) and choreography (Kate Dunn) are eye-popping colourful adding non-stop dynamism. Cassia Silva and Jaquez Andre Sims perform a dynamic tango that matches Quinn Mattfeld’s opening number of the second act “Telly” advising the audience against reading in favor of watching television.  The depiction of the story being concocted by Matilda about The Escape Artist (Justin Packard) and the Acrobat (Wesley Faucher) is inserted to emphasize further that the play is a fantasy.

Tim Minchim’s music and lyrics have won multiple awards and includes the memorable “When I Grow Up”, “Quiet” and “My House.”

All in all it is stunning evening with a running time of two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission. Recommendation: Should see and bring a child along.

CAST:  Gabby Gutierrez, Mia Sinclair Jenness, and Mabel Tyler rotate as Matilda. With the adult principals featuring (alphabetically): Jennifer Blood (Miss Honey), Quinn Mattfeld (Mr. Wormwood), Bryce Ryness (Miss Trunchbull) and Cassie Silva (Mrs. Wormwood).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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