It is no surprise that after 30 years, Roald Dahl’s Matilda still manages to capture the imagination of both adults and children alike with depth and distinction. Dahl’s ever so present reminder that our world, while filled with bullies wielding power and a growing praise for ignorance and false truths, is still a world that we design and reimagine daily.
After performances at Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, Vancouverites now have a mature and powerfully evocative musical here in town — Matilda the Musical has arrived. This production showcases an exceptional cast of adult performers that are joined by young talent that we should all expect great things from.
Director Daryl Cloran says it best in his director’s notes stating, “It is not hyperbole to say this will be a life-changing experience for many of [the young performers], one that will stay with them for years to come.”
If you haven’t read Roald Dahl’s Matilda that was originally published in 1988 or missed the feature film adaptation, you are still in for a treat. The musical jumps straight into its satirical splendour with children singing and dancing around a doctor (Justin Stadnyk) and Mrs. Wormwood (Lauren Bowler) as she gives birth to the unexpected and unwanted Matilda (Georgia Acken). We are then introduced to Matilda’s unfortunate father, Mr. Wormwood, played by Ben Elliott, and immediately get a taste of Dahl’s dark humour as he tries to bribe the doctor to switch out his newly born daughter with any boy that might be in the hospital at that time. Soon after the opening sequence, a young Matilda appears and we learn of her tremendous storytelling skills and brilliant mind.
There are a number of sequences throughout this production where Matilda tells Mrs. Phelps, the librarian, a story she believes she has made up. These sequences are coupled with wonderful lighting, clever sound design, and a stunning performance by all the ensemble present.
Matilda, played by Georgia Acken, did not miss a beat in her first professional performance. Acken not only stole our hearts with the fragrant storytelling handed down by Dahl but gripped the audience by controlling tightly woven and intricate melodies and presenting a striking vocal performance.
While the entire cast outdid itself, performances by Alison Macdonald playing Miss Honey and John Ullyatt as the infamous Miss Trunchbull brought this musical to life. It is plain to see that they truly helped steer this production into a success and I’m sure their guidance to the youth performers was instrumental.
This is one musical that should not be missed, and luckily, it will be playing at The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until July 14. You can get your tickets here.