Matilda the Musical, is now on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until January 8, 2017. Our beloved Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family also attended a performance of Matilda earlier in October. I would recommend the musical not just for families, but also for any audience, both young and old. However, read till the end of my Toronto Matilda musical review to find out what I liked and disliked.
To start, I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of theatre productions featuring any more than five child performers. When my friend suggested that I watch Matilda the Musical in Toronto, I was a little hesitant. Hesitant for my two personal biases (read: ignorance): my doubt in child performers and seemingly less sexy Canadian theatre. I mean, why shouldn’t I save the money for later and watch the Broadway shows?
I ended up going and found the show surprisingly pleasant. The young talents and a Canadian actor, Dan Chameroy, left me speechless. Compared to productions in Broadway or London, the quality of the Toronto production was surely scaled down and more modest. Yet, there are several good reasons to watch musicals in Toronto: affordable tickets, less crowded space, and location. I didn’t have to fight to get the tickets or to push through a sea of people to arrive on time. The Ed Mirvish Theatre is highly accessible and conveniently located right next to the Toronto Eaton Centre.
Matilda, Our Childhood Friend
Based on Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda is the story of a misunderstood genius girl. Extraordinary 6-year-old Matilda loves reading and is extremely smart. She takes a stand against her disapproving parents and tyrannical headmistress. Matilda the Musical, adapted by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin, was first showcased in England in 2010 by the Royal Shakespeare Company under Matthew Warchus’s direction. It has received long-running box office success, wining seven Oliver Awards in London West End and five Tony Awards on Broadway.
My friend, who suggested we watch together, told me that Matilda (1996 film) was one of her favourite childhood films. It was British writer Roald Dahl’s novel filled with Quentin Blake’s playfully scratchy drawings that introduced ten-year-old me to the world of Matilda. As grown-ups, we both went to the Ed Mirvish Theatre with some trepidation and exhilaration. The musical was clever and darkly witty. During the show, we found ourselves crying, laughing and amused by Matilda’s magic.
Unlike the Hollywood adoption of the film, the musical production was profoundly British. Much of the costumes were reminiscent of old drawings by Quentin Blake. There are many original elements to the musical as well. Playwright Dennis Kelly added parts where Matilda tells the librarian, Mrs. Phelps, a story about a world-famous acrobat and escapologist couple. Choreography, set design, and direction were incredibly clever and witty, using alphabet boxes, swings, and shadow play. Some of my favourite numbers include: Naughty, School Song, When I Grow Up, Smell of Rebellion and Revolting Children. Before watching the show, I recommend taking a look at the lyrics of School Song.
I was astonished by the child performers and fell in love with Jamie MacLean and Dan Chameroy. Jamie MacLean played Matilda the evening I went. Showing an extraordinary stage presence at a young age, she was a true reincarnation of ‘Matilda.’ Dan Chameroy as Headmaster Miss Trunchbull was undoubtedly the best performer of the evening with his uncompromising stage confidence and brilliant acting. Yes, Miss Trunchbull was played by a male actor.
A Few Sour Notes
With a two hour and 45 minute performance, the first act felt unnecessarily long and dull. Aside from Dan Chameroy and scene-stealing child performers, other adult cast members were not particularly memorable. While script and setting of the entire production are heavily British, there was a disconnect since the adult cast lacked a British accent and sensibility. Several parts of the plot and characters such as Miss Honey and the rushed conclusion with the Russian mafia felt too stale and predictable. Otherwise, other elements, including the score, choreography, direction and stage works, were simply brilliant.
Dahl’s message through Matilda, a youngster struggling to find meaning in her life and existential identity, also reminded me of the novel The Elegance of Hedgehog (also adapted into the film Le Hérisson 2009). I would also recommend Harold and Maude (film, 1971) and the first Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Hope you enjoy the two films, too!
Title Raold Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical
Music by Tim Minchin
Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Book by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Venue Ed Mirvish Theatre
Runs Until Sunday, October 16, 2016
Run Time 2 hours 45 minutes (includes intermission)
244 Victoria Street
Toronto ON M5B 1V8
Wed 1:30PM & 7:30PM
Sat-Sun 1:30PM & 7:30PM
Different performance schedules apply during holiday
Ticket prices range from $38 to $175
Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-872-1212/1-800-461-3333, and at the box office
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