OGDEN — Matilda the musical is based on the novel by Roald Dahl about an intelligent little girl who is stuck with the most horrible parents imaginable. She gets sent to an awful school and has to use her superb intellect and extraordinary gifts to best the horrible superintendent, The Trunchbull, and help her fellow students and kind teacher, Miss Honey, overcome the difficult conditions they are in. With music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly, this production was one I jumped at the chance to review at the Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden, because it is a story I have loved since I was a child. I looked forward to seeing how director Morgan Parry translated this classic onto the Ziegfeld Stage.
I first want to give strong praise to Caleb Parry for the set design of this production. Having seen the production when it toured and knowing the strength of the set with the original production, I confess I was worried to see how this production would transfer to smaller productions as the licensing became available. One of the songs in particular, simply titled, “School Song,” utilizes Caleb Parry’s set, lighting by Quincy Koons, choreography by Kacee Neff, and excellent music direction by Kelli Morris to show off the clever aspects of the show in the best way possible, and I am so glad not to be disappointed in any way. The way that the blocks of letters are used in conjunction with the lyrics in the song are perfectly timed and reminiscent of the spirit of how I remember Dahl as he was read to me as a child.
Amber Hansen‘s the dialect coaching was invaluable to this production. There are specific shows that cannot be done without strong accents, and Matilda is one of them. Each of the cast was excellent with their British accents, and I was especially impressed with the younger cast members, who were able to keep up with the more seasoned actors and even surpass some of them in their ability to sound authentic in their accents.
Casting for this show was sublime. Miss Honey, played by Natalie Peterson, was sweet and endearing, and as she sang the song, “My House,” tears sprang to my eyes. Quinn Kapetanov as the Trunchbull was absolutely hilarious and fitting, and he kept me riveted with both amusement and fear. Becky Hunt-Knowles as Mrs. Wormwood, it is safe to say, stole the show in her performance in the song, “Loud,” both with vocals and quite the impressive dance capability. And of course, Matilda, played by Pippa Parry, was a strong and capable young lady who balanced the impressive storytelling and fun of songs like, “Naughty,” with the more heartfelt moments like the song, “Quiet,” with ease.
Much of the strength of this production of Matilda came in the ensemble numbers. At the end of act one, when the whole class was cheering on Bruce, played by the very talented Henry Bell, the energy of the teen ensemble was quite energetic and brought the whole show into focus. This strength became even more apparent during the second act number, “Revolting Children.” The choreography, harmony, clever use of set, and energy of the cast during that number were some of the best I have seen on stage at the Ziegfeld.
Matilda is the type of production the whole family can enjoy. I was impressed with Morgan Parry’s ability to take such a big production and story and translate it into such a small stage while maintaining the integrity of the story. The story of Matilda shows that even though someone is little and may not seem to be important at all, they can be the most important part of any story as long as they try hard and believe in themselves and have someone on their side who believes in them. I was glad to see that the cast and creative team at the Ziegfeld Theater all believed in each other and worked together to put on such a fantastic show. I highly encourage people to go out to see this classic novel take on a magical, musical life.