'Matilda the Musical': Pure mayhem, magic, and mischief
There is magic in Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group's production of Matilda the Musical.
The show, which makes its first bow in Asia here, has its fair share of illusions and sleights of hand, but the enchantment owes much more of its staying power to its brilliant turns of phrase, its abiding love for Roald Dahl's unique brand of childishness, and its stupendous cast. (READ: On the magical mischief of 'Matilda the Musical')
And oh, how stupendous that young cast is.
Esang de Torres, who shares the titular role alternately with Uma Martin and Kyle Napuli, has a moment that isn't so much star making as it is wholly revelatory (though that might have more to do with her already being something of a household name).
Her voice is crystal clear, finding purchase in the earnestness and emotional potency of songs like "Quiet" and "I'm Here." She carries the show on her tiny shoulders with such grace and proficiency that it is shocking to think that she is only 9.
Her peers in the cast are just as formidable, all of them musical theater firecrackers buzzing across the Meralco Theater's stage with utmost purpose and, more importantly, unbridled joy, as they scream triumphantly to "Revolting Children," tousled hair and all.
It is their childlike delight and energy that binds the show together, and it is a relief to see that director Bobby Garcia and his team understand that this is exactly what makes the show so special.
The material, written by Tony-winning playwright Dennis Kelly and renowned musician-cum-comedian Tim Minchin, is a surprisingly dark but ultimately loving and jubilant ode to just how brilliant snot-nosed brats can be. In the hands of a less astute director, the show could have become a treacle-y trudge full of preciousness and all too wholesome family fun.
Thankfully, Garcia's version of Matilda is anything but precious. Cecil Martinez's choreography is hard-hitting and exuberant, more akin to spontaneous fits on the playground than a calculated school presentation. The set and costumes, designed by Faust Peneyra and Raven Ong respectively, are bright and colorful but a tad twisted, divulging just how brilliantly bizarre Roald Dahl's world truly is.
But the show's true display of mischief can be found in its colorful cast of adults. Jamie Wilson is deliciously despicable as Agatha Trunchbull, fully embodying her unique brand of villainy from head to heel.
In full drag, Wilson is the evil headmistress of Crunchem Hall, his spine unnervingly straight, his head tilted just so and his voice stuck in a perpetual screech. Not once does he relent, even as Minchin's elaborate lyrics threaten to turn into straight-up rap in "The Smell of Rebellion."
Wacky Valdez and Carla Guevara-Laforteza are a genuine treat as Mr and Mrs Wormwood, each one bouncing off of the other with an almost unsettling glee. They are bundles of manic, misguided energy, making for some of the funniest moments of the entire show.
And there is sweet, lonely, terribly anxious Miss Honey, played with great empathy by Cris Villonco. On a stage filled with magic tricks and over-the-top characters, Villonco is the perfect, neurotic foil, finding every adult's fears at the heart of her character. When the moment is still and Villonco is allowed to let her voice loose, particularly in the deeply touching "My House," the real heart of the show reveals itself.
Matilda the Musical is something of a family show but for more reasons than one would think. Within and among the joyous musical numbers and the otherworldly hair is the show's beating heart; this shared need for everyone, no matter how old, to find their place in the world. The show is no doubt perfect for kids and families, but feel free to come as a kid-at-heart and lose yourself in the magical world of Matilda. – 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.