MISS TRUNCHBULL MAKES THE PERFECT HOLIDAY GRINCH AND A CHALLENGE FOR YOUNG MATILDA
THE BERKELEY PLAYHOUSE CONTINUES TO STAGE WELL CRAFTED MUSICALS SHOWCASING TERRIFIC BAY AREA TALENT
Review by Vince Mediaa
Roald Dahl’s “Revolting Children” is Berkeley Playhouse winter production of the TONY award winner MATILDA THE MUSICAL. Miss Honey’s classroom is now open at the Julia Morgan stage only through December 23rd. Dahl’s novel about the young five year old hero was made into a movie in 1996. Book by Dennis Kelly and music by Tim Minchin who both add clever new songs and keep this fairy tale musical a cartoon musicbox. Composer Minchin‘s work includes “School Song” and the banner “When I Grow Up.” The humor appeals to both children and adults, as we follow the story of a few of the youngsters and adults trying to create a better life.
MATILDA is almost a Holiday treat if you can bare the torture from head mistress Miss Trunchbull. Directed and choreographed by Dane Paul Andres and Cat Reyes. They have both cast some of the best talent to fill this huge cast, which also calls for a full pre-teen cast to match the adult leads. Two gifted young actors Ozzie Schaffer and Miranda Klein play the extraordinary Matilda. They are both terrific in the opening number “Naughty”. Music Directors Camden Daly and Jessica Igarashi bring the pop score to over 23 songs the perfect sizzle.
Matilda herself does warm your heart as a young genius girl. Yet the show stopper is not the “Revolting Children,” but one of the most evil villains I have seen since “Hook” - the tour de force Gregory Lynch plays the evil Miss Trunchbull is effectively the best drag queen “Mrs.Hannigan”. Trunchbull sings “The Hammer” as she makes sure the kids in Matilda’s class are the lowest of human beings. Matilda is a young genius whose parents and school headmistress try to crush her spirit.
The adult cast has just the right Dahl quirkiness darkness and charm. The frenetic Mary Kalita, and the very funny Mark P Robinson are the reprehensible parents called the Wormwoods. Their first scene is Matilda’s birth on stage, a very “monty python” moment, as mom Wormwood complains the birth kept her from her cha-cha ballroom contest.
The elegant Austine Delos Santos plays Rudolpho, Mrs Wormwood’s flamboyant dance partner, always in the wings ready to take the lead. The impressive Camden Greathouse and Henry Vanhoutden play Matilda's older brother Michael who grunts his lines and mimics Daddy Wormwood. Dad is a slimy, cheat car salesman and perfect clown who is not fond of his daughter. Topped with green hair, Robinson has the best comic timing as the father, always calling Matilda “boy” and saying her love for reading books is a waste. Dad Wormwood opens the second act warning the kids in the audience that reading will stunt their growth.
Matilda’s teacher Miss Honey, played by the gifted Chanel Tilghman, sings “This Little Girl” with pitch perfect charm. Miss Honey recognizes the child's brilliance as well as Mrs Phelps the librarian played by the polished Jordan Battle. Phelps listens to the little girls’ wonderful stories. Battle sings “Acrobat Story” with the little girl during each of her visits to the Library. Both actors playing Matilda held this show together along with the supporting cast and the other kids in the double cast. It’s a demanding show and the youth cast is the key to fun on stage.
The ensemble cast fills in as the Russian thugs, the older teens, the doctors. The adult ensemble includes the high flying Leo Danz, the accomplished Milo Boland, Catherine Traceski, McKay Elwood, Dale Tanner, the superb Chris Anthony Williams, Maia Campbell, Kennedy Joy Fullard, Kacie Jean Hennessy and the stand out No’ Eau Kahalekulu fill out many other roles.
Matilda is one of Dahl's kinder tales; it's fun to see his famous trademark sparkle in the villains and the over-the-top adults he creates. For example, Miss Trunchbull is a past olympic hammer winner, a busty headmistress who tosses young students off stage by their pigtails or ears. The nightmarish cake eating bit is also part of the 2.5 hour show, and as awful as these child abuse scenes seem, the talent in the show soften the blow. Trunchbull PE class is a highlight as Lynch flies across the stage to land in a set of rubber balls.
Set designer Martin Flynn created a playground set for the children to explore as the classroom is wheeled on. The Woodworm house is filled with Prop Designer Patricia Bilello chairs and TV but her big chocolate cake was more of a mess in a box. Yet the two young actors playing Bruce the cake stealer Astro Camacho and Charlotte Fisher manage to make the prop appear devastating. The lighting by Aiden Reyes kept the mood blue and at times even black and white, as Joshua Price sound design managed to pick every young actor in the child cast. Stage Manager Emily Summers and her team Milo Blue and Lauren Quan have the huge task of wrangling a busy youth cast and made sure the adult cast has time for their many costume changes.
Costume designer Hope Birdwell created Mrs. Wormwood dresses camp carnival and Katlta carried them well as she swaggered off stage or conga danced. The dance teacher Rudolpho was dressed in black and Matilda wore the perfect Annie dresses that Birdwell kept big on her to make her look like a five year old. The 80’s pop look is topped off by marvelous wig designer Jennifer Marie Frazier who put the green in Dad’s wig. Condutor Jessica Igarashi eight member pit filled the Julia Morgan with pop anthem songs highlighted by “The Smell of Rebellion”.
“When I Grow Up” reprise ends Matildas’ quest for a better life and the hope that her dad finally may call her his daughter. MATILDA THE MUSICAL is a joy to watch and a lesson in listening to a child's dream and their potential to change life for the better. You can’t beat the twisted edge of Roald Dahl and the children’s tales he writes. MATILDA may not be the best Holiday musical, but the amazing Gregory Lynch as the tyrant Trunchbull is the perfect Christmas Grinch or Scrooge. As I post this review there are only three SOLD OUT performances left but do your best to visit Miss Trunchbull and see her match of wits with the amazing Matilda. Join the waitlist an hour before show time.
The Berkeley Playhouse Presents
'MATILDA' The Musical
By Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin, adapted from the Roald Dahl novel
Directed by Dane Paul Andres
Choreography by Dane Paul Andres and Cat Reyes
Vocal Direction by Camden Daly
Conducted by Jessica Igarashi
Must close Dec 23rd
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, one intermission
Berkeley Playhouse - Julia Morgan Theatre
2640 College Ave Berkeley Ca,
SOLD OUT Join the wait list
Photos by Ben Krantz Studio.
THE ADULT CAST
Gregory Lynch as Miss Trunchbull; Mark P. Robinson as Mr. Wormwood; Mary Kalita as Mrs. Wormwood; Jordan Battle as Miss Phelps; Chanel Tilghman as Miss Honey; Austine Delos Santos as Rudolpho / Ensemble; Milo Boland as Doctor / Escapologist / Ensemble / US Mr. Wormwood; Catherine Traceski as Ensemble / Understudy Miss Trunchbull; McKay Elwood as Ensemble / Sergei / Understudy for Doctor & Escapologist; Dale Tanner as Ensemble / Understudy Mrs. Wormwod; Kris Anthony Williams as Children's Entertainer / Ensemble; Maia Campbell as Ensemble / Understudy for Miss Honey; Leo Diazas Ensemble / Understudy Sergei, Rudolpho; Kennedy Joy Fullard as Acrobat / Ensemble; Kacie Jean Hennessy as Ensemble / Understudy for Acrobat; and No'Eau Kahalekulu as Ensemble / Understudy Mrs. Phelps.
THE YOUTH CASTS
Miranda Klein and Ozzie Schaffer as Matilda; Camden Greathouse and Henry Vanhouten as Michael; Tara Akhavan and Ginger Dreicer as Lavender; Astro Camacho and Charlotte Fisher as Bruce; Lucy Fisch and Danielle Sutro as Hortensia; Kyle Walsh and Mars Silva as Tommy; Kate Cheng and Katelyn Eugenio as Alice; McKenzie Lopezlira and Keenan Moran as Eric; Lily Stein and Madelyn Simon as Amanda; Sofia Rose and Max Messinger as Nigel; and Jayna Manning, Lily Black, Mateo Garcia, and Sarah Ousterhout as Ensemble