Theatre Under The Stars
Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical

When & Where alternating nights between July 12 to August 26, 2023 All shows at 8pm, except on Fireworks Nights (July 22, 26 & 29) when shows begin at 7pm | Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park

Director Stephanie Graham Production Manager Richard Berg Set Design Brian Ball Lighting Design Robert Sondergaard Costume Design Christine Reimer Sound Design Michael Kidder Musical Director Lia Wolfe Choreography Krystal Kiran Stage Manager Koh Lauren Quan
Ariyanna Vellani, Barb Choi, Monica Sumulong-Dumas, Colin Parker, Stanley Tsang, Martin Brosnan, Anya Murray, Jennifer Innanen, Miranda Wheeler, Lindsay Goldberg, Justin Kury & Nicky Walsh

Reviewer John Jane

Matilda The Musical is based on Roald Dahl’s dark children’s story, adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly and songs added by Tim Minchin. Set in England, roughly in the time it was written, it follows the misadventures of a five-year-old girl who doesn’t fit into her family’s self-absorbed dynamic. At some point every child gets bullied, though not usually by their parents. Despite all the emotional setbacks, Matilda somehow finds that inner strength and becomes an intellectual prodigy with an uncanny mastery of telekinesis.

Dennis Kelly’s stage version differs substantially from Roald Dahl’s original novel. Though, its central focus is on Matilda Wormwood’s uncommon precocity. The young protagonist’s story-within-a story related to the preposterous librarian (Hazel Eason) about husband and wife circus performers is a departure from Dahl’s original work. Matilda’s simple storytelling is fine, but the enactment by Kadia Kindersley and Thomas Schultes, though well done, presents a distraction from the essential narrative. I could have also done without the absurd Russian mafia scene near the end that only makes the night longer.

The show kicks off in fine form with a group of children (all local actors) extolling their parents pride in giving them birth with “Miracle” – a lively number, perfect for opening the show.

While Matilda’s relationship with her parents is scurrilous, Victor Hunter and Madeleine Suddaby deliver hilariously over-the-top performances as the adult Wormwoods. Victor Hunter assisted by Adam Lenk, who plays Matilda’s older brother Michael, offered up impromptu entertaining schtick at the beginning of the second act.

Eleven-year-old, Port Moody resident Siggi Kaldestad is a totally believable introvert leader who escapes from her opprobrious family life by reading classic novels. She completely nails her character with charm, confidence and conviction. The show could succeed or fail on her participation – fortunately, it very much succeeds. The (many) children in the audience may well have left the theatre singing Matilda’s infectious ditty “Naughty.”

Jyla Robinson is brilliant as the pantomime villain Miss Trunchbull, Crunchem Hall’s comically terrifying headmistress. She almost steals the show from the bunch of youngsters in the cast. Her rendition of the second act number “The Smell of Rebellion” earned the performer some good-natured ‘boos’ from the audience at curtain call.

Director Stephanie Graham manages her large cast well, allowing the natural exuberance of the younger actors to determine the pace. Krystal Kiran’s straight-forward choreography is certainly innovative, easily adapting to both the emerging talent and the more seasoned performers - particularly Jaren Guerreiro as Rudolpho, Mrs. Wormwood’s self-aware dance partner.

Brian Ball’s eye-catching basic set of giant volumes with classic titles like Crime and Punishment, Ulyesses and Catcher in the Rye is seen throughout the show. The set is further enhanced by rolling sections seamlessly moved on and off the stage. Particularly appealing is the way books are opened to magically reveal relevant scenes. No expense seems like it has been spared with costumes, particularly the children’s attractive school uniforms and the Wormwood parent’s outrageous clothing.

It’s obvious that Theatre Under The Stars has invested heavily in rehearsal time. The result is clearly seen on stage in this high quality production.

© 2023 John Jane