By Erika Brown Thomas
Drury Lane’s production of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, Matilda, is spectacular in every way.
The winner of five Tony Awards in 2013, including Best Book of a Musical, Matilda is the story of a telekinetic 5-year-old bookworm who overcomes difficulties at home and at school with the help of a beloved teacher. The full plot summary and production history of the musical may be read here. From the very biggest to the very smallest cast member in this new regional production, each and every one shows off their considerable talents in the menagerie of characters come-to-life via the stage.
The title role of Matilda is filled by two outstanding young actors, Audrey Edwards and Natalie Galla. The part is demanding with little time spent offstage and lots and lots of lyrics and lines. Edwards’ (who performed the night of the press opening) embodiment of this extraordinary girl is both powerful and poignant. Her narration of the framing device specifically written for the stage version of Matilda is particularly wonderful.
Eben Logan plays the wonderful and long suffering Miss Honey with a gentleness that belies the true strength of her character. Ms. Logan’s voice is pure perfection and every time she opens her mouth to sing – the stage comes to a standstill.
The malevolent headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Sean Fortunato) tromps her way through the theatre summoning shock and hilarity with every heavy footfall. Fortunato luxuriates in the vindictive villainy Miss Trunchbull inflicts upon the “revolting” children attending the school. Every time s/he enters the stage s/he one-up’s his/her previous antics.
Mr., Mrs., and Michael Wormwood (Jackson Evans, Stephanie Gibson, and Evan C. Dolan) are as perfectly gross and garish as Mr. Dahl’s detailed descriptions. Dolan brings fantastic physical and facial hilarity to the mostly silent part of Matilda’s extremely dim brother. Ms. Gibson wows with her stellar high belting and plays a perfect spousal foil for Evans, a repugnant and failure of fatherhood, as he experiences a gauntlet of revenge laid down by his daughter. Mr. Evans is a huge talent and it is fully displayed in the opening number of Act II, “Telly.” His athleticism and penchant for improvisation is extremely obvious and his comedic timing is beyond compare.
Matilda’s first friend, Mrs. Phelps, the librarian, is played impressively by Linda Bright Clay. Clay’s warmth and and insightful acting choices keep slow-moving scenes alive and interesting.
An adult cast expertly supports the lead players with a myriad of skills and character parts including, older children, circus entertainers and the Russian mafia.
The set designed by Jeffrey D. Kmiec works effectively and is the key to several of the special effects and events in the show.
The entire ensemble of children is adorable and each is given several moments to shine out on their own. In particular, Joshua Zingerman, who portrays the chocolate cake-craving Bruce Bogtrotter, creates an incredible amount of character with his time in the spotlight. The finale, “Revolting Children,” highlights Zingerman as a soloist and is a fantastic number with current choreography (Mitch Sebastian – Director/Choreographer), complete with “flossing” and “shooting.”
The show runs for a full 2 hours and 40 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. It is lengthy, but more than worth the time spent in the comfortable seats of the Drury Lane Theatre.
Drury Lane Theatre presents “Matilda” through June 23 at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. More information and tickets, including student group tickets and dinner and show packages are available here. Photos by Brett Beiner.