We spend our last night “on Broadway” with Matilda. As someone who was (and is) deeply in love with books and was (and is) rather different from other people, Matilda’s story is quite close to my heart (again: I cried. Not only because it was sad and I could relate to that but also because the children were f*cking amazin!). As a child I never really loved the movie because I disliked Danny DeVito’s portray of Mr. Wormwood so much and here in Germany Roald Dahl’s novels are not really known – maybe they are nowadays but the weren’t in the 90ies, sorry. (read: my movie-musical-comparisons here will be based on pure guessing and thinking that I remember this and that from the movie back then….)
Once again I was quite excited (although it initially had been my mother’s idea to go and see it because I really wanted to see it in London one day) because once again a video made me cry. Not any video of course, it was the performance they did at this year’s Tony Awards. “Revolting Children” is one of my favourite songs from the show because it is so self empowering, in the end the children win over the adults. I love that thought and I always loved it back when I was working at GRIPS Theater in Berlin. In generally I think shows in which children take action and change something about their living conditions are great not only for children but also for adults to get their fix of “unorthodox problem-solving”.
From the videos I already had realized that one of the only differences between child- and adult-actors in that show is the difference in height (and weight). Even in a highly energetic dance number like “Revolting Children” you only see dancing people – adults, children that doesn’t even seem to matter. They seem to have the same ammount of body tension and balance and everything.
Seeing the show live was only prooving me right. Not only did they dance like crazy (I’d say the children in the ensemble are between 9 and maybe 12) but the also do some of the set-changes: They bring in an arm-chair, a TV….smaller, but yet heavy things. They move on stage so naturally.
Comparing that to the situation in Germany: Over here a child could never ever touch something heavy, on rolls or anything.
So I’m standing here in awe and I’m not even talking about Matilda herself yet.
Regarding Matilda now. I’m not sure who of the four girls sharing the part was on that night we saw it, on the board it said Sophia Gennusa would be on, the note in our Playbills said Bailey Ryon. From the appearance I’d guess it was Sophia Gennusa. And that young lady was amazing. She literally took the audience’s hand and guided them through that evening, she totally took the stage. And not only because “she’s a child and sooooooo cute”. She has a steady voice, her acting was crazy good.
Of course the adults were amazing as well. Gabriel Ebert was hilarious he totally deserved the Tony he got for that part (best line: A boy with no thingy?), Lesli Margherita as Mrs. Wormwood was so hilariously stupid and ugly while thinking she looked stunning (best line: “Push, Mrs. Wormwood, Push!” – “I’ll push you in a minute!”). Jill Paice as my favourite character from the movie, Ms. Honey. I would have killed to have one teacher like that in school. Really. And her solo “My House” is so touching! I loved it so much! Craig Bierko does a nice job being evil as Mrs. Trunchbull (another case of travesty-/cross-dressing-performance! Liked the concept of that, too!).
But I really want to write something about the score and the book. Mostly about the score by Tim Minchin. Let’s start with the “School Song”. That song is great because of the creativity it shows about the alphabet. It’s so on children’s eye-level and makes so much sense to adults at the same time I can’t get over it plus it tells us a lot about the school experience that’s going to happen to Matilda and her new class mates. Can you ask for more? The second time they sing through the chorus that actually spell the whole alphabet: “And so you think you’re/ Able to survive this mess by/ BEing a prince or a princess/ you will soon/SEE there’s no escaping trageDY” Let that just sink in for a moment. And “Naughty” and “Quiet” are amazing songs, too. So relatable. But also the Wormwood’s songs like the intro into act 2 with Mr. Woodworm’s “Telly” – which almost is too smart for him. And “When I grow up” (and the way that is staged, holy cow!)
On a more general view I can say: Staging-wise it wasn’t my favourite (because Once and Big Fish are basically living in my heart and brain and everywhere…) but I left Matilda completely stunned by the performance of everybody.
And so I left Broadway (for now).