Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Matilda" Fights The Power

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Roald Dahl Must Have Suffered in School

By Skip Sheffield
The British educational system must have been really tough on young Roald Dahl. The writer-illustrator poured out his stored-up anger and resentment in “Matilda,” which began as a children’s book and is now a stage musical running through Sunday, March 6 at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach
It takes an extraordinary girl to play an extraordinary girl, and this show has one in Sarah McKinley Austin, a tiny girl with a giant talent. In fact the entire cast is first-rate, and small wonder. The show is produced under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Matilda is just 5-years-old, but she has the intelligence to challenge an adult and even has powers of telekinesis. Some teachers embrace the challenge of having such a smart student. Others feel threatened. An example of the former is Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood0, a young teacher who finds a kindred soul in Matilda and her love of books. An example of the latter is Miss Trenchbull (David Abeles in drag), the school’s autocratic principal who thinks of students as “maggots.”
Matilda’s parents don’t know quite what to do about their child prodigy. Mr. Wormwood (Quinn Mattfield) is proudly ignorant. He has never read a book and gets all the information he needs from the “telly” (television).
Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) is more sympathetic, but she is no match for her brainy daughter.
“Matilda” is allegedly a children’s novel, but as such it has some pretty dark and depressing stuff. I related uncomfortably to the character of Matilda, as I too had a habit of challenging teachers and making sarcastic remarks. I paid with “bad behavior” marks on my report cards. When I was just a year older than Matilda I had a showdown with a teacher who retaliated by making me attend detention after school, which left me stranded on the mainland when I missed the bus to home on the barrier island. A policeman rescued me.
“Matilda” will be coming back at a somewhat smaller venue; the Broward Center. The show is better suited for a smaller venue. The British accents are rather hard to decipher in a large auditorium. The songs by Tim Minchin are OK, but I was not left whistling any number. The choreography by Peter Darling is quite inventive, especially when the young children morph into young adults.

Tickets start at $28. Call 800-572-8471 or go to www.kravis.org.

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