Short & Sweet Critic Holly Daigle reviews Matilda with Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago

 
Provided by Broadway in Chicago; Video production by Tribeca Flashpoint College
Updated 3/29/2016 2:54 PM
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Knowledge is power and reading is the key to that power. No one can keep Matilda, a sharp-witted child from doing just that, not even the overbearing school principal Miss Trunchbull, played to the audience's delight by David Abeles. The funny, scary and zany "Matilda The Musical" will keep audiences entertained and inspire children, especially those ages 5-7. "It was a little funny and dark at the same time but very empowering," said Short & Sweet critic Holly Daigle of Arlington Heights.

Review by Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago

"Matilda The Musical," winner of four Tony awards opened to a standing ovation at Broadway In Chicago's Oriental Theatre.

This funny, scary, zany and intriguing show is based on the book by Roald Dahl, author of beloved children's stories, such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The adults in Matilda's world are all self-indulgent, uneducated and moronic; they tease Matilda because of her love of reading and tell her that she will be a "boring and ugly bookworm if she continues to read and study." Of course, as any precocious child would do, she does the exact opposite! Book writer Dennis Kelly does a great job of setting up the primary conflict with incredibly horrible parents and a sadistically cruel school principal who constantly threatens and torments the children. But, thanks to Matilda's intelligence, she finds ways to get back at them. The true magic of the show is the underlying moral and message to children that knowledge is power. Thanks to Matilda's sharp mind and courage she is able to change her own destiny.

One of the show's greatest strengths is the athletic and highly innovative choreography by Peter Darling. The dance is based in play time and highly stylized with sharp accents that energize every number. The music is rhythmic and catchy and the singing is powerful.

Standout performers include the overbearing school principal, Miss Trunchbull, who is more akin to a prison warden. Trunchbull is actually played by a male actor (David Abeles) who knows how to perfectly balance the part by scaring the heck out of children while having a tongue-in-cheek likability for the audience. Matilda was performed by Lily O'Briant on opening night. O'Briant has a very strong stage presence and is on stage for most of the show in a demanding role which she masters well with understated strength and poise. Her terse speech pattern can be difficult to understand but her acting is spot on.

The audience on opening night gave O'Briant and this spectacular cast a standing ovation that went on and on with enthusiasm for this wonderful new show. The show is filled with inspiring messages like the power of compassion and girl power and, more importantly, reminds us that nerds and knowledge are never to be underestimated.

This award-winning musical is at the Oriental Theatre through April 10, 2016. The show runs about 2 hours and 40 minutes with an intermission and is suitable for those 6 and up. It's a great family show, so if you're looking for something to do with the family over Spring Break -- this is it!

On behalf of the Daily Herald and Broadway In Chicago, I'm Diana Martinez and I look forward to seeing you at the theater!

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