Drury Lane’s Ambitious, Entertaining ‘Matilda’ Leans Toward the Chaotic

I love Matilda. Specifically the musical which I’ve seen twice on the West End, which is why I was so excited to review Drury Lane’s production directed by Mitch Sebastian. Part of my love comes from nostalgia as I grew up watching the 1996 movie and reading Roald Dahl’s classic novel. The other part of my admiration for Matilda comes from the fact that Roald Dahl wasn’t afraid to tackle tough issues in his books, and this musical doesn’t shy away from those issues either, unlike the 1996 movie. The show themes range from revenge, abuse, power hierarchies, loneliness, trauma, and the loss of adolescence.

Drury Lane doesn’t disappoint with its energetic cast and transformative set (Jeffrey D. Kmiec), as well as its lighting and projection design (Driscoll Otto). This show is fast paced and offers up some challenging design aspects that are usually reserved for big Broadway houses, but Drury Lane Theatre finds ways around all of this in their smaller venue. The set design leaves room for the audiences’ imaginations to fill the setting, while panels containing projections help provide subtle details of each location. The lighting is fast and keeps up with the quick pacing of the songs. The costume designs (Theresa Ham) in this show are also fun and different from the norm, they provide a great extra layer of world-building within the show. The Wormwoods’ colorful and tacky outfits stick out and showcase their dominating presence, while the children’s school uniforms are grey and dull showcasing how society often forces children to be uniformed and not seen. Not to mention that some fun technical and Illusion tricks (Bob Koch, Ray Nardelli, and Cassy Schillo) are showcased, like levitating water shown through Matilda’s supernatural powers and the Agatha Trunchbull’s cruel pigtail hammer throw scene.

Drury Lane is also able to put their own unique spin Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s show, focusing in on how adults are often children who’ve lost their dreams and ambitions with the musical number “When I Grow Up”. This choice fumbles, even though It’s a risky and different interpretation than the norm. While ambitious in some ways, the choice to center adult loss devalues and downplays Matilda’s feelings and panders to an older audience. Miss Honey, played by fantastic Eben K. Logan, is a timid and traumatized woman who has to learn how to stand up against the cruel adults in her life. She lives in a world that still silences her like a child, something I resonate with all too much. In fact, the adult and child actors allow the audience to feel with them instead of showing us emotion, like Sean Fortunato’s performance of the cruel yet hilarious Miss Trunchbull.

Sometimes Drury Lane’s attempts in its unique interpretation can get bogged down by too many spectacle based projections and chaotic and rushed movement. They also choose to dumb down the abuse in the show, which lessens the impact of these moments. The show is still a strong, fun, and impressive tackle on Matilda.

I must also mention the high ticket prices at Drury Lane are less than affordable, ranging anywhere from $50-$70 with no student or military discounts. They also manage to offer non student tickets or affordable discounts, which is discouraging. Regional theatre should be accessible for every economic background. If you do have the access and transportation to see Matilda running through June 23rd, be prepared to question the inner child in yourself and ask if you have the power to revolt. All ages are sure to enjoy the show, and maybe tear up a little at the end.

Matilda runs at Drury Lane Theatre until June 23rd.

Audrey Edwards (Matilda)
Natalie Galla (Matilda)
Eben K. Logan (Miss Honey)
Sean fortunato (Miss Trunchbull)
Jackson Evans (Mr. Wormwood)
Stephanie Gibson (Mrs. Wormwood)
Linda Bright Clay (Mrs. Phelps)

Anna Fox (Children Ensemble)
Liliana Rene Renteria (Children Ensemble)
Andrea Crisp (Children Ensemble)
Ava Tommasone (Children Ensemble)
Joshua Zingerman (Children Ensemble)
Patrick Scott Mcdermott (Children Ensemble)
Nathaniel Buescher (Children Ensemble)
Nolan Maddox (Children Ensemble)
Saige Chaseley (Children Ensemble)
Bailey Mosbacher (Children Ensemble)
Carter Graf (Children Ensemble)

Lydia Burke (Adult Ensemble)
Lexis Danca (Adult Ensemble)
Annie Jo Ermel (Adult Ensemble)
Andrea Collier (Adult Ensemble)
Paul-Jordan Jansen (Adult Ensemble)
Andrew Macnaughton (Adult Ensemble)
Liam Quealy (Adult Ensemble)
Alex Benoit (Adult Ensemble)
Evan C. Dolan (Adult Ensemble)
Casey Sanders (Adult Ensemble)
Austin Ryan Hunt (Adult Ensemble)

Dennis Kelly, Tim Minchin (Book, Music)
Mitch Sebastian (Directed and Choreographed)
Roberta Duchak (Music Director)
Jeffrey D. Kmiec (Set Designer)
Theresa Ham (Costume Designer)
Driscoll Otto (Lighting and Projections)
Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer)
Cassy Schillo (Props Designer)
Miguel Armstrong (Wig Designer)
Kate DeVore (Dialect Coach)
Lisa Donmall-Reeve (Associate Director and Choreographer)
Bob Koch (Illusionist)
Larry Baker (Production Stage Manager)
Brett Beiner (Photography)

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