Based on the 1988 children’s novel by Roald Dahl, Other Voices Theatre Company brings to life the endearing story of Matilda Wormwood, a precocious young girl who is misunderstood and abused by her family and most other adults in her life. This story was introduced to many young girls through the beloved 1996 film adaptation starring Mara Wilson in the title role and Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman as her vile parents. It opened as a musical on Broadway, following a very successful London premiere, in 2012 and won the hearts of theatergoers.
While most parents consider their children angels, princesses, princes, or as the full company explains in the opening number, a “Miracle”, five-year-old Matilda Wormwood’s family considers her a bizarre nuisance, referring to her as a worm, toad, or any other demeaning epithet they can think of. They don’t comprehend how anyone would prefer to read and get information from books instead of the telly.
When Matilda goes to school, the tyrannical headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, an Olympic medalist in the hammer toss, thrives on inflicting punishments on the “maggots” that attend her school. In contrast, Miss Honey is Matilda’s sweet, caring teacher whom all the students love. Matilda, who is mentally and scholastically far advanced for her age, takes it upon herself to defend everyone from Miss Trunchbull’s evil machinations, even helping Miss Honey claim an inheritance she didn’t know she had.
Throughout the play, Matilda visits the local librarian, Mrs. Phelps, to borrow books and tell her a serial-style story about an escapologist and his wife, an acrobat, who were deeply in love and desperately wanted a child. Little did she know how the story would end.
Ainsley Deegan, quite an accomplished actress already, was a shining star in the title role, deftly moving from being a “little bit naughty” while playing pranks on her father to engaging storyteller to intrepid defender of those who are weaker than she. She also has a beautiful singing voice which was highlighted best in her song “Naughty.”
As sadistic headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, Steve Cairns was a captivating delight. He managed to steal scenes, even when surrounded by adorable children. His interpretation of “The Hammer” is worth the price of admission. As Miss Honey, Michelle Boizelle was the perfect foil to Miss Trunchbull and Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. Her sweet, gentle demeanor shone throughout and really showed in her number, “This Little Girl.”
As sleazy used-car salesman, Mr. Wormwood, trying to make a quick fortune selling old clunkers to Russians, James Meech was a comic delight. As Mrs. Wormwood who would rather focus on ballroom dancing with her partner, Rudolpho, than her family, Kelli Donahue was a lot of fun. Her number, “Loud”, with Rudolpho, played by incredibly talented and limber dancer, Eddie Stockman, was very entertaining.
Portraying the only other caring adult in Matilda’s life, librarian Mrs. Phelps, Alex Gude was charming as she got more and more invested in Matilda’s story, waiting eagerly to hear the next chapter in the saga. Thomas Bricker and Kiersten Gasemy were lovely as The Escapologist and The Acrobat. Thomas’ voice is beautiful. I just wish his role could’ve sung more. Kiersten’s acrobatic routine with silks was gorgeous to watch.
The ensemble of “maggot” children and adults was outstanding. The children’s ensemble shone in every scene. Favorite numbers were “School Song” and “The Smell of Rebellion” which had excellent choreography with the latter including high-energy calisthenics while singing. From the moment the children appeared in the opening scene, each one had very distinct characters and never wavered from them.
Director, Susan Thornton, and music director, Cathie Porter-Borden have produced another professional-quality production. Set in England, everyone from the youngest cast member up maintained their English accents. Choreographer, Donna B. Grim, did an exceptional job creating intricate details in all the numbers.
The minimal set designed by scenic artist, Lee Hebb, uses oversized children’s letter blocks for furniture, and it is beautifully enhanced by a framework of painted book covers around the stage. Lighting and sound design by Steve Knapp is excellent and greatly enhances the production. Costumes by Maria Boyce and Samn Huffer, hair and makeup by Jennifer Maschal-Lorms, and props by Pat Dickinson and Jennifer Maschal-Lorms are also well done. This production runs seamlessly under stage managers, Jennifer Vierthaler and Chris Levy.
This show is an absolute delight for the whole family. If you want to see this production, get your tickets soon as seating is limited and some performances have already sold out.
Running time: Two hours and thirty minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
Matilda the Musical plays through November 9, 2019, at The Performing Arts Factory, 244B South Jefferson Street in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-3722 or purchase them online.