‘MATILDA' “AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE”
Rules are meant to be broken—theatrical and otherwise—so while Roald Dahl’s “Matilda The Musical,” playing at the Drury Lane Theatre never strays far from the familiar twists and turns that have popularized the sardonic nature of the 2010 British import that landed on Broadway with a bang in 2013, there is more than enough youthful enthusiasm and outrageous humor infused in director/choreographer Mitch Sebastian’s production to make it fresh and visually appealing. And the Dennis Kelly book and Tim Minchin music and lyrics aptly described the opening night performance on Thursday of the talented sixth grader Audrey Edwards (who splits the title role with fifth grader Natalie Galla): Matilda is truly “an exception to the rule.”
You can forget that old vaudeville adage—and aspects of the staging and performances in this quirky musical dramedy harken to that bygone era—that you should avoid animal acts and children. No four-footed friends here, unless you count the newt, just an ensemble full of wonderfully talented children—and lots of bigger kids—who make up the unruly and underachieving class at Crunchem Hall School where our heroine finds respite from the emotionally troubled and hilariously inept Wormwood family.
With her conniving, book-bashing dad, played with comic gusto by Jackson Evans; her ditzy self-absorbed mom, an effervescent Stephanie Gibson; and Evan C. Dolan as the daft “backward” brother Michael, things are grim for Matilda at home. She strikes back in her own way and escapes to the library and school where her teacher, Miss Honey (Eben K. Logan in a beautiful performance), recognizes Matilda’s special gifts and takes an immediate interest in helping to expand her possibilities. That path must lead through the office of the sinister Headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Sean Fortunato in full and glorious bottom-feeder bloom).
Matilda can spin a yarn, which, as it turns out, has less to do with her imagination then one might think. In truth, Miss Honey and the librarian Mrs. Phelps (a nice turn for Linda Bright Clay) are the only real people she can trust which is okay as a point of reference. There’s already enough madcap lunacy with Fortunato, Evans, Gibson and Clay to go around.
The large ensemble of children and other players twist, shout and dance about all night long. “When I Grow Up,” “This Little Girl,” and “Quiet” are among the standout numbers with Gibson and Alex Benoit (Rudolpho) in “Loud.” The clever Act 2 opener by Evans and Dolan, “Telly,” is a riot. And then there is Fortunato in a class all his own as the prickly, insensitive, mega-maniacal ex-Olympian who wants to rid the world of children and replace them with, well, nothing while nailing “The Hammer”’ and “The Chokey Chant.”
And, so it goes until Matilda learns to master her extraordinary abilities, seize the day and rid the world of the meanie. In the end, there’s hope that Mr. Wormwood will get a new hairstyle, something preferably not in green, unless the Russians get him first. In the meantime, with a monolithic set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec, music direction by Roberta Duchak and elaborate costumes by Teresa Ham, there’s lots of fun ahead for Matilda and her classmates who will be raising havoc in Oakbrook through June 23.
DRURY LANE THEATRE
MATILDA THE MUSICAL
through June 23rd
100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook