Orange County Theatre Reviews

(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

When I decide to take a child to the theater, there are two basic things I look for in the show –entertainment  and education.  Will they enjoy themselves, and will they learn something from the experience?  It has been awhile since I’ve seen a show meeting these criteria as successfully as Matilda.  This Tony Award winning musical is now playing over at Segerstrom in Costa Mesa, but there are only three more shows –so hurry.

Based on the book of the same title by Roald Dahl, Matilda is the story of a remarkable little girl facing tremendous turmoil.   Although she is clearly a genius in every sense of the word, her incompetent parents and deranged headmistress fail to recognize Matilda’s prodigious talent.  Utilizing her special talents (and some really catchy tunes), Matilda proves you don’t have to be big to be powerful or to stand up for what is right.

The show is so colorful it reminds me of a circus.  Bright lights and special effects combined with flips and fabulous dance forms held the attention of my younger cousin for the majority of the show.  However, the show began at 7:30 pm and did not end until 10:15 pm.  She was exhausted and fell asleep during the last ten minutes.  Lesson learned, next time we’ll take a nap earlier in the day.

Speaking of children, there are several of them in this production.  In addition to the three girls who alternate the role of Matilda ( Hannah Levinson, Jamie Maclean, and Jenna Weir) there is an entire troupe of fresh faced, little moppets that comprise Matilda’s class.  All of them can sing and dance.  Some of them gave acting performances that were clearly stronger than their peers.  Oh well, my cousin did not care, so neither do I.  Jamie Maclean was the Matilda I saw, and she was delightful.  Her Matilda is sympathetic and a bit more straightforward than some of the Matildas  I have seen in the past.  There is not  a whole lot of introspection with Jamie’s Matilda, but there is a whole lot of strength and determination that is apparent even from further back in the seats.

All of the adults in the cast were spot on.  Dan Chameroy makes you believe he is clearly on the edge of losing it as the psychotic Miss Trunchbull. I laughed several times during his performance.  He was so alarming my cousin intimated to me that, “If she [Miss Trunchbull] were my principal, I would run away from school; I wouldn’t care what anybody said.”  But the thing is, this show is about more than just scaring kids.  It’s got great music. It encourages learning and praises Matilda for her commitment to books.  It extolls the virtues of kindness, bravery, and –believe it or not –self autonomy.  In her song “Naughty” Matilda declares, “‘Cause nobody else is gonna put it right for me, nobody but me is gonna change my story…”  That is a valuable lesson to internalize –regardless of age.

January 17, 2017 – January 29, 2017

GREAT SHOW

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