HERRIMAN — Every generation has their musical that is the gateway for young fans to become engaged in musical theatre. I know for many my age it was Annie and then Beauty and the Beast. The current staple is Matilda: The Musical. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl (and influenced by the 1996 film adaptation) this adaptation has received an epic community production by the Friends of Herriman Arts Council at the Butterfield Park Pavillion in Herriman. It plays through June 17th and is the perfect show to introduce the entire family to the joys of musical theatre.

Show closes June 17, 2024.

Back in 2013 Matilda was met on Broadway with huge success. It won 5 Tony Awards and ran for 4 years to boisterous audiences. I must admit I have my issues with the musical’s book by Dennis Kelly but it has so many fun bops (music and lyrics by Tim Minchin) that it’s hard to not be won over especially with so many cute kids belting out such catchy songs.

In Herriman they have spared no expense with a massive cast that’s very talented, a large impressive set and a full orchestra with a conductor (Orchestra director Megan Thorup)! Having live music in a show allows for there to be more of a ever-present score than you can get with a recorded backtrack and it makes the whole experience so much more immersive and memorable. I know it’s not always possible but it sure adds a layer when a company goes to the effort to do it (plus it allows for more people to participate in the experience which is a win for a community production.)

While not perfect, I was impressed with the sound design by Jesse Clayton in a difficult space. The outdoor pavilion is echoey and the cast is so large that the fact I could hear almost all the performances with the orchestra rarely overpowering even the child actors is very impressive. I also liked the set design by Tavnir Carey. They have the Trunchbull’s office set up like a security guard’s office with painted TVs because she’s spying on everyone. The design of the various chokeys is appropriately grim and the mobile library cart is whimsical. It’s also nice to see a local production that was entirely handmade sets vs projections (which I totally get their usefulness but it was just nice to see something old-school.) Being outside I didn’t know how they were going to pull off the chalkboard writing scene but it really worked quite seamlessly.

Really with Matilda, however, it all comes down to your leading lady. It’s such a demanding role to play Matilda and to do it all with a British accent is daunting but Eliza Morley was up for the challenge. I don’t know what else you could ask for in a Matilda. She was spunky but warm and empathetic whenever you needed her to be. Even though I find the story sections of the musical to drag down the book Eliza told the stories with enthusiasm and as much energy as possible. I think her best song is in the second act with “Quiet.”

Barton Sloan is having a blast as the Trunchbull. In fact, this is one of the more silly depictions of Trunchbull I’ve seen. He leans into the sarcasm with numbers like “The Hammer” and “The Smell of Rebellion.” Perhaps knowing the large number of kids in the audience it’s wise to go with a bit more of an antics-driven interpretation instead of Trunchbull being actually scary.

Director Becca Henrie seems to have considered every element with this production. For example in “When I Grow Up” we have kids coming down the aisles on roller skates and scooters as they wistfully sing about their hopes and dreams. In “Revolting Children,” Brooks Moffitt gets a great solo as Bruce, and the huge cast has coordinated dance routines including tumblers moving across the stage. The crowd was so into it they began to clap along with the performers.

Another small thing, but I think shows the attention to detail of the production, is that the concessions being sold were on theme with the show. There were 5 different Matilda inspired sodas and chocolate cupcakes, which if you know the musical is right on theme! I know it’s not always possible to do such things in a community production, but it adds to the experience when they do.

Like I said, the venue, while impressive, is very challenging to perform in with terrible acoustics and the other disadvantages of an outdoor arena in the summer. However, considering what they had to work with, Herriman Arts did a great job with their production of Matilda: The Musical. I would recommend bringing a seat cushion or pillow as the outdoor seats are pretty uncomfortable and the show is a long one. But I think this would be a great event to bring the whole family to and, with it being outside, nobody will have to worry if a kid is getting squirmy and needs to step a way for a second. It’s a low risk, high entertainment value production and one that will leave guests humming some catchy tunes on the way home.

The Herriman Arts Council’s production of Matilda: The Musical plays nightly (except Sundays) at 8:00 PM June 6-17, 2024 at Rosecrest Pavilion at W&M Butterfield Park (6212 W Butterfield Park Way, Herriman, UT 84096).  Tickets are $12-$14. For more information, visit www.friendsofherriman.org/arts/.