By David Steinberg
She is intelligent. She is brave. She is emotionally strong. She speaks up for what is right. She defends herself against the meanness of her parents and against the evilness of the school
Our heroine’s name is Matilda. She is only five years old. That’s right, five. Given her age she is the unlikely heroine of the uplifting Roald Dahl story told in the Broadway touring production of “Matilda the Musical.” There are four remaining performances at Popejoy Hall – two today, Jan. 14, and two on Sunday, Jan. 15.
Go see the show to believe in Matilda. It is a show for children and adults. It has the potential to empower youngsters in the audience just as Matilda empowers her classmates and her teacher, Miss Honey, to stand up for what is fair, what is good.
In the Friday night performance, Jaime MacLean portrays Matilda. Jaime did a bang-up job acting, singing, dancing. She rotates in the role with two other girls. You know Matilda would have a tough life from birth: At the hospital her father, Mr. Wormwood, insists his daughter be a boy, just like her dunce of an older sibling Michael. Anti-intellectual dad and mom can’t believe Matilda loves to read books and doesn’t want to spend mindless hours in front of the TV like Michael.
Mr. Wormwood (Brandon McGibbon) is a lying, cheating used-car lot owner outfitted in a gaudy yellow-and-green plaid suit. Vulgar Mrs. Wormwood (Darcy Stewart) lives for her hours as an amateur ballroom dancer partnering with the limber, self-absorbed Rudolpho. The Wormwoods love to ridicule their daughter at every turn and they’re relieved when Matilda starts school and is out of their (big) hair.
But at school Matilda must contend with the child-hating headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy). With a name like Trunchbull, the vulture-like character couldn’t be anything but villainous. She brands the children “maggots.” Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are inventive and enhance the dark and bright moments of the storytelling.
The opening number “Miracle” starts out bright and runs into dark. In the song, Matilda and a strong supporting cast of classmates sing that their parents brag about them as a princess, a prince, an angel and a special little soldier. But it turns hard: “Has my daddy told ya, one day when I’m older/I can be a soldier/And shoot you in the face!”
Matilda is not only an inveterate reader of books but she’s also an imaginative storyteller. Her storytelling mesmerizes the school librarian Mrs. Phelps (Keisha T. Fraser). And Matilda’s storytelling stuns Miss Honey (Paula Brancati) out of her lonely defensiveness. The set is built around letter tiles like the Scrabble board game, and movable set pieces of shelves of books. Surrounding them are deep blue blocks that add to the dark side of the musical.
“Matilda the Musical” is being staged at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. today, Jan. 14 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15 at Popejoy Hall, Center for the Arts, UNM campus. Tickets are available at www.unmtickets.com, www.popejoypresents.com, by calling 925-5858 or toll-free 877-664-8661, at ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore, in The Pit and at area Albertsons supermarkets, and at the Center for the Arts box office. For groups of 10 or more call 344-1779.