Review: Matilda brings Broadway presence to Syracuse

Matilda packs the Landmark Theatre during its week long showing.

Matilda is an entertaining, smash hit filled with all the delights of Roald Dahl, and certain to make an audience fall in love with this beloved character all over again.  Written by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, the First National Tour of the musical arrives at the Landmark Theatre fresh off of Broadway. The show opened on Dec. 1 and will run until Dec. 6.

Photo: Courtesy of Joan Marcus/Matilda First National Tour
Mabel Tyler performing as Matilda in the Broadway musical that is performing at the Landmark Theater for six days.

Young Matilda, which is played by Mabel Tyler, is a precocious bookworm with a clever knack for pulling pranks. Her level of intelligence verges on genius, but she is neglected by her parents who see her as a useless smarty pants.

When Matilda is enrolled in Crunchem Hall Elementary she must endure the draconian Miss Trunchbull. Inspired by her loving teacher, Miss Honey, she is able to use her brilliant mind to move objects just by focusing on them. She uses these telekinetic powers to protect her friends and to revenge any wrongdoing.

Tyler's stage presence and enthusiasm effectively portray her character’s precociousness. Bryce Ryness, who plays Miss Trunchbull, adds comedic charm to his character’s exacting harshness.

What is notable about this Broadway hit is that it can easily be comprehended by young children who may be encountering Roald Dahl’s classic for the first time. The use of inventive choreography and lighting effects add necessary appeal to the set.

However, the play also communicates the darker themes in this childhood tale. In the opening song “Miracle,” the child ensemble sings about how their parents dote on them as princesses, future presidents and miracle children. In the same song, Matilda sings about the insult and rejection she has had to endure as a child.

The first few scenes show Matilda’s home life and her parents’ preoccupation with their own selfish desires. This allows the play to explore darker themes of loneliness, rejection and the burden of being an unwanted child in a way that is still palatable to the audience.

In turn, the song “When I Grow Up” conjures feelings of nostalgia, emphasizing the fleeting nature of childhood. As the child ensemble sings about what they anticipate adulthood will be like — being able to stay up late and eat candy whenever they want — the audience is inspired to think about what it means to be a child and the trials of growing up.

Just like the original classic book, Matilda the musical is a thoughtful, fun-filled experience that is as clever as its beloved protagonist.

Tickets can be purchased through the Landmark Theatre Box Office or Ticketmaster. Prices range from $40 to $75. 

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