Matilda

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Kinetic

Matilda is one of Roald Dahl’s best books.  It is a dark tale about a gifted girl with hideous parents.  To say it presents a tonal challenge is an understatement.  But the movie, directed by Danny Devito, succeeds.  When I heard that Matilda the musical had opened to much acclaim in London, I had high hopes.  I bought tickets last Fall, and waited.  And in fact, Matilda opened to rave reviews on Broadway.  It was nominated for lots of Tonys.  Were we witnessing the birth of a classic?

In a word, no.  Although Matilda is worth seeing.  The staging is excellent.  There is a tremendous sense of kinetics, the students are always moving, on swings, trampolines, scooters and desks.  The set is marvelously inventive, a great backdrop for a show about learning.  It looks like a giant exploding Scrabble board.  The performances are strong.  Four girls rotate playing Matilda.  We saw Sophia Gennusa, who was excellent – small, strong, and fierce.  Bertie Carvel reprises the role of Miss Trunchbull, which he originated in London.  The choreography is good, the costumes are wonderful, and have I mentioned the staging?  You have to see it to believe it.

The problem?  The songs.  The lyrics are difficult to hear.  I think this is a sound problem more than an enunciation problem.  More importantly, the songs aren’t memorable or tuneful.  Since the whole point of a musical (to me at least) is … THE MUSIC, I’m afraid Matilda doesn’t quite succeed.  Usually I leave a musical humming a song or two.  This was not the case with Matilda.   So, although Matilda is a creative, well staged, well acted musical, it fails to deliver on, well, the music.

Rating:  *** (out of ****)

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