The 5-Star Theatricals presents a special treat for audiences of all ages. The production of Matilda The Musical opened on March 22 and will run until March 31 at the Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
Roald Dahl, author of many unique stories (“ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Witches,” “James and the Giant Peach”), has authored Matilda, hinting at his secrets of success, “it [has] got to be exciting, it’s got to be fast, it’s got to have a good plot …but it’s got to be funny!” And fast, fun and funny Matilda is, with its wonderful dark fairy tale plots, good VS evil, its outrageous characters, with energetic direction by Lewis Wilkenfeld, creative lively staging and choreography by Heather Castillo. Noelle Raffy has designed bright colorful and muted costumes, so effective in setting the mood and the characters of the play, just as Jose Santiago’s lighting and Stephen Gifford’s sets. The spirited Musical Direction by Jennifer Lin conducts the excellent 5-Star Theatrical’s orchestra. The Book was written for Broadway by Dennis Kelly, with Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin.
Like Edward Gorey’s drawings, the characters creep into the plot. As the lights go up, we enter the hospital, screens lined up like soldiers to block our view, whilst a shrill voice, breaks the musical interlude. Finally, Mrs. Wormwood, coiffed and ready on a gurney (Janna Cardia), is rolled out in front of the screens. She is attempting to escape, so as not to be late for her ballroom competition, having stopped off to see the doctor (Ben Carroll), to find out why she’s getting so “fat.” She discovers she’s nine months pregnant, and immediately manages to give birth to her baby daughter, Matilda. She hardly says hello to her new offspring, before she’s off dancing again with her wild macho partner, Rudolpho, played by John Paul Batista. He so appropriately dons his long disheveled curly black hair, black skin-tight leather pants, Black and blue tango shirt and high heeled boots poised at each moment to execute some hysterical and passionate feat. From there, the story twists and turns, as do the characters who soon expose their quirky abilities, foibles, and missteps.
Matilda, a waif-like child who reads incessantly, is played by the precocious Olivia Marcum. Her ability to devour books is her escape from her loud, over-the-top and dismissive father, Mr. Wormwood, (James Larsen), who is a used car salesman, and calls her “son”. Her cavalier mother, and dullard brother, understand little about her love for books. She strategizes her way out of the chaos of her Wormwood family who think she’s wasting her time reading, rather than looking at the “Telly.”
Her great escape from the chaos is the Library, reading stacks of literary tomes and telling stories to her captive audience, Miss Phelps the Librarian, played by the warm and engaging Deanna Anthony. Miss Phelps often reacts in horror, as Matilda leads her down the path of one outrageous dark tale after another. The stories never finish, yet only get more and more chilling at the retelling.
As Matilda’s life unfolds, she moves on to school and her young class mates who encounter the evils of the Upper Classmen, and the intro of her beloved teacher, Miss Honey, a skittish, bookish and gentle soul, played by the lovely Katie DeShan, who sees in Matilda all the brilliance and courage she would love to have in herself.
Then, without warning, the overpowering vision of the mole-faced massive and barbaric Principal, Miss Trunchbull fills the space. A fabulous full breasted evil character played by the brilliant Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, who appears over 6’3” and is dressed in a Grey Khaki jacket and skirt cinched at the waist with a black belt. Trunchbull wears knee high black sox and boots, not unlike the Large female Nazi general in Wertmuller’s “Seven Beauties.”
With song and precision and energetic staging “The Smell of Rebellion” signals the Revolution of the students and teacher and the climax of this musical that keeps you laughing and on your toes throughout. It weaves the surprising endings with the, they live happily ever after feeling which brings the audience to its feet in joyous resolution. The only concern as an audience member was at times the inability to hear and understand the words, which when understood, were quite clever, yet at times were swallowed up in the English accents. The numerous lines and quick pace of the words added to the difficulty at the most inopportune and important plot moments.
However, this is a fun-filled few hours of carefree pleasure, a bit of mystery, recognizable villains, lots of booing and cheering for the characters…and just plain enjoyment that takes one away from the troubles of the world. A truly entertaining event that speeds by so quickly that we are left with a lovely glow to remember and digest later in the week.
For information and tickets to Matilda, click here.
Featured photo: Katie DeShan and Olivia Marcum with the ensemble of 5-Star Theatricals regional theatre premiere of “ROALD DAHL’S MATILDA THE MUSICAL,” directed by Lewis Wilkenfeld and now playing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Photo by: Ed Krieger