I was given a copy of Matilda, the story based on the famed children’s book by Roald Dahl, and tucked it in my bag as we were heading out for a week away. I had begun reading it myself and found it a fun read and hoped that my 11-year-old son would feel the same. I also realized that Matilda: The Musical was going to be on stage. So, I selfishly thought it would be a great double activity for me and my son. But would he be interested?
I approached him with the book, thinking that, given the name, he would immediately tell me it was ‘for girls’. I was fully prepared to sell him on Matilda, a book I knew to be a fantastic one, and to convince him to read with me and then see the production come to life on stage.
‘Oh yes! I want to read that!’ he told me with excitement. ‘I’ve read almost all of the Roald Dahl books, but didn’t have a chance to get to this one yet. It’s was always signed out at the library.’
Well, if I could have shown you my smile from ear to ear you would think I had won the lottery! I had no idea that he had even read so many already and he continued to tell me how he thought the author was so imaginative. Within mere days, my child (who is more often found in front of his gaming devices) had finished reading Matilda and was eager to see the musical. Okay!
Matilda: The Musical has won over 50 international awards, including four Tony Awards and a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, including Best Musical. The play is based on the beloved novel by best-selling author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox). It’s the story of an extraordinary girl who dreams of a better life. Armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, Matilda dares to take a stand and change her destiny.
Matilda is a five-year-old girl whose parents have no time for her. Her father is a cheating used car salesman and her mother pays more attention to her looks than anything else in the world. Her brother is lazy, but since he’s a boy, he can do no wrong in the eyes of his parents. Matilda is left to find her own way and discovers a love for reading as she ventures alone to the library everyday—quickly consuming every book in the children’s section before moving on to books for adults.
When she announces her desire to go to school, her parents reluctantly send her. Fortunately, her teacher, Miss Honey, recognizes Matilda’s brilliance and searches for ways to foster her love for learning, even though the tyrant headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, loathes children and considers them all maggots. Once Matilda settles in to her new classroom, things get a little naughty in the most magical way. Matilda discovers her powers to move things with her eyes…and the school was never the same again.
Both my son and I really enjoyed both the book and the movie adaptation, and I couldn’t wait to take him to see the musical.
First off, we loved the musical numbers. My son said he thought the tunes were catchy, and I was happily humming along to the songs days later. Our favourites were When I Grow Up, Naughty, and Loud.
Matilda, who played by Toronto’s Hannah Levinson the night we had attended, was incredible. ‘She is exactly what I thought Matilda would be from the book!’ said my son. He went on to explain that she’s a very convincing personality for the precocious little girl. Okay, and as a mom, I’m spell-bound by how demanding this role is for someone so young (Levinson is 9 years old). To see her deliver all those lines, sing and dance with ease is magical. Hannah is a talent worth going back to see again! But having said that, we’ve heard that Jaime MacLean and Jenna Weir who also play this demanding lead role are excellent as well. Side note: I may need to sneak down and see them as well if I can coordinate to find out when they are performing!
We had learned that Dan Chameroy was to play the role of Miss Trunchbull and we were very excited, having seen him in previous shows, including as Gaston in the Canadian premiere of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as well as starring in many Ross Petty musical productions. As Miss Trunchbull, Chameroy delivered just what we craved: a larger than life villain with a dash of fun.
We also adored Mrs. Phelps, played by Keisha T. Fraser, the librarian who helped carry a key thread in the story line with her heartfelt and fully invested character. Fraser’s loveable personality is like a safety net, allowing us to catch a breath in this zany journey.
I asked my son if he thought people needed to read the book before seeing the Musical. He thought the story line was easy enough to follow on stage, but that reading the book added a layer that made seeing the stage adaptation more interesting. There are a few surprise twists that, as my son said, ‘I didn’t see that coming!’
Matilda: The Musical is on stage now at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto. The production has just announced its extended run through to November 27, 2016. For more information visit mirvish.com.
All photos by Joan Marcus.