by CHARLIE LI
On Nov. 1, the UMW Theatre department hosted a pay-what-you-can preview of their second production of the year, Roald Dahl’s “Matilda the Musical.”
“Matilda the Musical” is a dazzling adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved novel, which was brought to life with stimulating songs and dynamic choreography. It tells the story of an extraordinary girl who—armed with a sharp mind and a vivid imagination—dares to take a stand and change her own destiny in a grim environment. With a full audience on the first showing, the production was bound to be a popular hit.
With this being one of the very few musicals I’ve attended in my life, I have to score it quite highly on my list. The cast’s energetic and lively performance encapsulated the audience into the aloof yet hopeful world of Matilda Wormwood. Played by freshman theatre major Emmy Beach, she truly embodies the role of a genius girl with a vivid imagination. Her portrayal of the character was both heartwarming and inspiring, striking a similar note with anyone who has ever felt underestimated or out of place.
The musical numbers were catchy and well-executed, with “When I Grow Up” and “Revolting Children” being the two catchiest songs in my opinion. Beach’s performance and chemistry with Miss Honey, played by senior English and theatre double major Maddie Baylor, developed a true sense of friendship and belonging on stage for the audience to enjoy. Similarly, the Wormwood family played a crucial role in exaggerating the out-of-place Matilda, even in her own home.
Personally, my favorite actor was senior theatre major Matthew Monaghan in his performance of the evil headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull. Playing one of the pivotal roles in the play, Miss Trunchbull’s antagonistic role really shined through with every sighting on stage.
Even though I was sitting quite a distance away, at times, I could feel Miss Trunchbull’s frightening aura radiating from the stage, especially when Trunchbull threw one of the children off-stage by her pigtails.
Reflecting on the rehearsal process for this scene prior to the show, Monaghan said, “There are a few things needed for this to happen successfully. We spent a good deal of time on it in tech rehearsals to make it work.”
Regarding his role, Monaghan elaborated on the technical aspects of performing this scene as Miss Trunchbull.
“As Trunchbull, I have to give a big cue with my hands to signal the strobes to go off. As the strobes are flashing, Amanda Thripp and I do a full circling of each other which ends in me ‘throwing’ them offstage with a grunt,” he said. “The strobes really help bring this scene alive!”
Monaghan’s transformation into the character was both startling and convincing, bringing depth to the role that was both terrifying and darkly comical. His ability to balance the menacing aspects of Trunchbull with moments of absurdity highlighted his commitment to the character’s complexity.
Immersed in the magic
The choreography throughout the show was spot-on, featuring a wide variety of moves and sequences, which reflected the whimsical and rebellious essence of the story. The cast’s precise execution added an overwhelming sense of energy to each set, and the visual elements of the sets were immersive, bringing the audience closer to the world of Matilda.
During the intermission, the cast interacted with the audience, featuring Miss Trunchbull in a lively discussion with audience members as she searched for audience members who read books.
This seamless blend of dynamic choreography, engaging visuals and interactive experiences with the audience perfectly took on the spirit of Roald Dahl’s beloved tale, leaving the audience enchanted long after the show finished.
Megan Dineen, a senior theatre major who plays Eric in the musical, discussed how she maintains energy and enthusiasm throughout the long shows.
“Playing a young kid definitely takes a lot of energy but that energy is there because kids are excited by everything!” said Dineen. “As adults we’re expected to control our emotions, our volume level, our excitement; and we’ve practiced that control. Kids haven’t yet, so they don’t spend any energy on self-consciousness.”
Reflecting on the spectacle
I have very few critiques, as the show was quite enjoyable to embrace, however, at certain moments in the show, I found the background music or chorus to be somewhat overpowering, which made it difficult to hear the lead actor’s singing. Other than that, I would say the entire cast and backstage did a spectacular job in recreating this musical at UMW.
“This first week of shows has been absolutely wonderful. It has been such a joy to see so many people come out and support all of the hard work we have been doing over the past few months,” said MO Oberle, a senior theatre and English: Creative writing double major who plays Mr. Wormwood.
According to UMW Voice, the theatre department will present a sensory-friendly rendition of “Matilda the Musical” on Nov. 17 at 2:00 p.m. Additional performances of the musical will run through Nov. 19, with evening shows at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as well as matinee shows at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.