Some of "Matlida"'s amazing kid stars swing it out. Photo by Joan Marcus.
I was a tad nervous when I walked into the the Shubert theater to see Matilda: The Musical, the Broadway adaptation of Roald Dahl's story that officially opens tonight. The book manages to present this weird, perfect mix of cynicism and hopefulness—it walks that line only Roald Dahl can really walk—and I was worried that a big musical production might iron all of its nuances right out.
Was I ever wrong. There's nothing super-Disney about this show (though the kids in the audience still went absolutely wild for it), and thank goodness. Tim Minchin's music and lyrics don't drown the story in pounds of sugar—they keep the book's sharp edge and wit, even during the naturally mushier moments.
And the CAST, you guys! First of all, there are the four little wünderkinds who alternate playing Matilda, the kid genius with telekinetic powers. For anyone under the age of 12 to carry a show is pretty darn impressive (see: Billy Elliot's Billys), but the Matilda I saw, Milly Shapiro, was already holding the stage like a seasoned veteran. That's not to mention the other youngsters who play Matlida's classmates, all of whom manage to develop memorable characters. (Jared Parker, aka Nigel: You are my hero. I'll hang out with you in Chokey anytime.)
And then there's Miss Trunchbull. Oh, man, Miss Trunchbull. Let's put it this way: She's played by a he (Bertie Carvel). She's the most delightfully nasty, icky, terrifying school headmistress you'll ever meet. And she totally steals the show.
Oh, and there's a TON of very dance-y dancing—which isn't a surprise, given that the choreographer is Billy Elliot's Peter Darling. You get everything from a flashy spoof on competitive ballroom dance to a sweet number involving playground swings. And that explains why the rest of the cast is filled out with some of our favorite Broadway dancers—including cutie Ryan Steele, of newspaper-fouettéing Newsies fame.
The short version of this rant? Matilda is a musical that brings Roald Dahl's crazy world to sharp, hilarious, wonderful life. See it!
Oh my gosh, you guys—we have been on a roller coaster ride of emotions today.
This morning, we heard that dancer (and cutie) extraordinaire Ryan Steele was leaving the cast of Newsies, where he's wowed audiences with his newspaper fouettés ever since the show opened on Broadway. Ryan! Nooooo!
Then, just a few minutes later, a bit of Twitter research revealed he was going to join the cast of Matilda the Musical, which opens March 4 and promises to be totally amazing. RYAN! YAYYYYYYYY!
Anyway, just thought you all should know. Now we're off to dream sweet daydreams of Mr. Steele in Roald Dahl land. What? Did we type that out loud?
(By the way—if you're a Matilda fan, get excited for our March issue!)