On the magical mischief of 'Matilda The Musical'
MANILA, Philippines – It should come as no surprise that the energy in the rehearsal room for Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s (ATEG) upcoming staging of Matilda the Musical is almost irrepressible. This is the first time that the show will be staged outside of Broadway and the West End, and there is a hum of excitement in the air as the cast and crew put the final touches on what looks to be a phenomenal show.
It also doesn’t hurt that the majority of the cast is composed of 7- to 8-year-olds, all bright-eyed and brimming with energy.
If you don’t know much about Matilda the Musical, here’s a brief primer: adapted from the beloved Roald Dahl novel by musician Tim Minchin and playwright Dennis Kelly, the show was initially staged by The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon for a limited Christmas run in 2010, only to become something of a British theatrical juggernaut – transferring to the West End to rapturous critical applause and consistently sold-out audiences.
Many, many awards and a wildly successful Broadway transfer later, Matilda the Musical is finally making its way to Asia, by way of Manila, thanks to ATEG.
The show, which revolves around an incredibly talented young girl who stands up to cartoonish evil adults with her friends, is a flight of fancy packed with wit, sly pop culture references (Your largeness is like the TARDIS / Considerably roomier inside), genuine theater magic, and lots and lots of kids.
Nineteen of them to be precise, including the 3 unbelievably talented and precocious leads – namely Uma Martin, Esang de Torres, and Felicity Kyle Napuli – who will be alternating as the titular character, Matilda.
It’s almost shocking, watching the young cast rehearse, with their laser focus and seemingly endless reserve of energy. They all dance, sing, and move with purpose, not letting up once as they go through the hard-hitting choreography for numbers like “Bruce” and “Revolting Children.” Led by veteran director Bobby Garcia, the children are absolute professionals through and through, and even the adult cast members can’t stop talking about it.
“You forget they’re even kids,” says Jamie Wilson, who plays the imposing headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. “They’re such professionals.”
That isn’t to say, though, that the show is devoid of childishness. On the contrary, Matilda the Musical revels in it. Unlike in many shows targeted at children which focus on making their cast act cutesy and precious, Matilda’s kids are still very much kids; prone to misspelling (their spelling of too late for you as 2 L8 4 U is a favorite), burping, stealing snacks, and writing rude things on the chalkboard.
Funnily enough, the show’s adults are just as immature, if not more so. Matilda’s parents, played with aplomb by Carla Guevara-Laforteza and Joaquin Valdez, are obsessed with their looks and watching TV. The terrifyingly narcissistic Miss Trunchbull heads the school’s faculty, and even soft, sweet Miss Honey, played by Cris Villonco, is wildly insecure and ill at ease “She’s proof that even a grown woman can feel alone and isolated,” says Villonco.
The true emotional center of the show is Matilda herself. She is wise beyond her years, is brave as can be, and she understands the need to be a bit naughty sometimes. Her character has as much depth and complexity as some of the most revered roles in contemporary musical theater, and that is made all the more evident by the fact that she is played with such emotional clarity by a group of 8-year-olds.
This is what helps set Matilda the Musical apart. It is a show about growing up and finding one’s place in the world, no matter how old you are. At its beating heart, based on what little we have seen, this production understands that we never really outgrow our childhood insecurities and that it’s perfectly all right.
Matilda the Musical is just as much a show for kids as it is for everyone who has ever been one, and it doesn’t hurt to have some of the country’s most promising young talents to remind us that we all still have a little bit growing up to do. – Rappler.com
Matilda the Musical plays at the Meralco Theater, Ortigas Center, Pasig City from November 10 to December 10 2017. For tickets contact Ticketworld at 891-999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph.
Chino is a freelance culture writer and food stylist.