Who: Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse
Where: The Landmark Theatre
When: Dec. 1-6
When looking at life through the eyes of a child, the bullies are meaner, school is a never-ending prison, and being an adult with the freedoms that come with it, is the best privilege in the world. “Matilda the Musical” looks at life through these youthful eyes in the highly entertaining First National Tour that is currently playing at the Landmark Theatre.
Presented as a part of the Famous Artists Broadway Theatre Series’ Broadway in Syracuse, “Matilda” is based on the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The musical features a clever book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin that are upbeat, yet twisted in a wonderful Dahl-like way.
“Matilda” tells the story of a young girl, Matilda Wormwood (played by Mabel Tyler at the Dec. 2 performance), whose parents resent her love of reading and prefer she watch television. Matilda finds an ally at her school in Miss Honey (Natalie Wisdom); however, Miss Honey is also battling a bully of her own in the form of a children-hating hammer-throwing champion: Miss Trunchbull. Matilda takes matters into her own hands by using a knowledge beyond her years, as well as the ability to move objects with her mind, in order to stick up for what she believes is right.
Similarly to Dahl’s books — which always included twisted worlds in which the adults were bad (some ate children) and kids were the heroes — everything in the musical was fantastically off-kilter. The costume and set design by Rob Howell features disproportional shapes and garish colors, a highlight being Mr. Wormwood’s plaid neon-green suit. The stage proscenium is lined with scrabble-like tiles, which are included within the scenic design as well, creating a dream-like literary world.
Two of the most delightfully cruel characters are Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, played by Quinn Mattefeld and Cassie Silva respectively. Both parents portray the mixed priorities of their characters with high energy and perfect comedic timing. Another standout is Ryness, who stopped scenes as the terrifying Miss Trunchbull. Ryness’ appearance alone, including a distinct mole and highly disproportional bosom, is cartoon-like in a way one might recall a memory of their scariest teacher twenty years after kindergarten.
Despite the play’s many antagonists, at the heart of “Matilda” is the value of children and how important it is that they are loved and supported by their elders. This is emphasized in a poignant line in the opening scene: “every life is unbelievably unlikely.”
The value of youth is seen in the highly energetic cast, which features nine kid leads. All children dedicate 100 percent of their energy and focus to the performance, singing and dancing just as well as the adults beside them. They are led by the fully capable Tyler, who carries the show as if she is a seasoned adult.
Luckily, there were plenty of children enjoying their contemporaries onstage at the Landmark. By viewing the world through the eyes of children, “Matilda” proves the importance of valuing our youth not only in society, but in the theatre as well.