Review: “Matilda the Musical” delivers a hilariously fun performance

Review: The hilariously fun "Matilda the Musical"

Syracuse Stage's second show for the season is a delightful journey out of the darkness into light.
Published: December 4, 2021
Matilda the Musical at Syracuse Stage
Emerson Glick, Taylor Gary Hendricks, Kim Sava, and Luke Darnell in Syracuse Stage and the Syracuse University Department of Drama's co-production of "Matilda The Musical" at Syracuse Stage.

Matilda the Musical is overflowing with fun and laughter. The Tony award-winning musical, based on the novel by Roald Dahl, follows Eureka Day in the 2021-22 schedule for Syracuse Stage. It tells the story of a telekinetic, book-loving young girl who uses cleverness and intelligence to better her situation. Emerson Glick, a musical theater junior at Syracuse University, steals the show as the quick-witted, superpower wielding Matilda.

Every member of the cast shines by her side, from David Lowenstein as Miss Agatha Trunchbull, Kathleen Wrinn as Miss Honey and Luke Darnell and Kim Sava as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. Seventh-grader Brian Herbert, as Bruce, holds his own next to his older castmates, bringing down the house in “Revolting Children.”

Running from Nov. 19 through Jan. 2, there are many chances to hear the powerhouse voices in Matilda the Musical. In keeping with the fun of the show, the recipe for the chocolate cake that brings about Bruce’s demise in Act One is even available in the program. Music director Brian Cimmet and the live orchestra are steady and consistent, accompanying the action on stage from beneath the performers. The balance between the orchestra and performers is excellent; even the most chaotically layered musical moments are clear and intentional.

The stage is designed like a storybook, with letters cascading down the curtains which shift back and forth. A rotating stage assists in the seamless transitions between scenes, keeping the fast pace of the show. Subtle projections immerse the characters into a fantasy world as Matilda tells the amazing story of the acrobat and escapologist.

Vibrant costumes designed by Ryan J Moller shine on the cast of 30. The children’s initially over-the-top outfits are dulled by school uniforms while the Wormwoods strut in saturated pinks, greens, yellows and oranges. Choreography by Andrea Leigh-Smith is upbeat, dazzling in “Miracle,” “Loud” and “School Song.”

Although COVID restrictions require the cast to be slightly older than usual, the mixture of college students and middle schoolers is effective while keeping the light-hearted feel of the musical.

This year’s holiday musical marks a special return to the stage for director Donna Drake.

“In this world turned upside down by a pandemic for the past 18 months, I now find myself back at Syracuse Stage directing Matilda,’’ Drake said in the press release. “It’s like coming home to a place where I am surrounded by friends, amazing talents and the brilliance of the design. Matilda is a child’s journey out of darkness into light, enduring adversity and finding happiness. Like Matilda, we have all been through a lot. May we all reach for light and happiness.”