‘Matilda the Musical’ showcases cute, cuter, cutest kids

Emma Evans is superb as Matilda.

Take 31 kids, many of them first, second and third-graders, add 5 adult actors, put ‘em all on stage together and what’s the result?

A community theater production of “Matilda the Musical” that couldn’t help but bring me two hours of smiles since I really like watching over-the-top comic characterizations and cute, cuter and cutest youngsters.

Not to mention an incredible title role performance by Emma Evans, an exceptionally talented child actor/singer whose successful show biz future is probably a sure thing if she wants to pursue it.

For the more sophisticated, “Matilda” contains an important layer above and beyond its physical comedy and clever lyrics — female empowerment, as current in its own way as today’s #MeToo movement despite the show dating back to 2010 in London and 2013 on Broadway.

With a subtext that if you put your mind to virtually anything, you can do it.

The happy-ending story?

A precocious, mischievous girl, a voracious bookworm who develops powers of telekinesis, is misunderstood — and underestimated — by her unscrupulous father (who nastily calls her a “twiddlebrain”), her libidinous mom and her sadistic school headmistress (who equates children to maggots).

But she finds two allies: Ms. Honey, a grade-school teacher with an attitude as sweet as her surname, and Ms. Phelps, a sympathetic librarian.

Ms. Trunchbull (Nelson Brown) intimidates Ms. Honey (Gillian Eichenberger) in “Matilda the Musical.”

All five adults on stage are sublime in their cartoonish characterizations — Andre Amarotico, the troupe’s lone Actor’s Equity performer, in a trio of hilarious roles as the doctor, the entertainer and Rudolpho; Nelson Brown, rib-ticklingly gender-bending and wearing massive shoulder padding as the tall, villainous head of school, Ms. Trunchbull; director/choreographer Katia McHaney, founder of Katia & Company, the show’s producer, as a flashy, powerfully-voiced Mrs. Wormwood; Gillian Eichenberger as a saccharine Ms. Honey; and Tyler Gable as the green-haired, wretched father who’s addicted to the “telly,” Mr. Wormwood.

As amusing as they were, though, I enjoyed the charming child performers more.

Each deserves a medal for trying so hard, even when their flailing arms or kicking legs don’t quite sync with the others in the chorus; even when their tiny voices can’t be discerned at all; even when the tumblers are slightly off-balance; even when the British accents slip a trifle; and even when the table that’s supposed to hide a small stagehand underneath a cloth doesn’t conceal anything.

The opening night’s Naughty Cast audience seemed to consist mostly of 110-percent supportive parents, relatives and friends of cast members. I expect similar attendance for the revolving Rotten and Revolting casts.

Opening night, which I attended, nobody seemed to mind Ms. Wormwood’s pregnant belly showing the outline of a basketball or her mesh stockings having a huge hole at the thigh-line.

But applause was the order of day, not finding fault. So I, along with my wife and granddaughter, enjoyed it all — including Tim Minchin’s initial lyrics and music, Dennis Kelly’s original adaptation based on the classic, 1988 novel by Roald Dahl, and Eichenberger’s local music direction.

My favorite musical numbers were “Miracle,” a company choral effort; “Naughty” and “Quiet,” solos by Matilda; “Revolting Children,” a spirited denouement of Ms. Trunchbill; and an exaggerated dancing duet sequence spotlighting Ms. Wormwood and Rudolpho.

Over all, the show’s simply fun — for audience and cast.

The Katia and Company’s production of “Matilda the Musical” will run at The Playhouse in San Anselmo, 27 Kensington Road, through Nov. 3. Night performances, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees, 1, 2 or 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: $16 to $18. Information: 415-305-2153 or info@katiaandcompany.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →