Wednesday, January 22, 2020

“Matilda The Musical” Hits High Notes At Coronado Playhouse.

Coronado Playhouse is currently mounting the Broadway musical “Matilda The Musical” with book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin through Feb. 23rd. 

It is certain to be one of the all time family entertainment productions here as it hits all the high notes while pointing out that wisdom is not necessarily reserved for ‘adults only’.  
Reese McCulloch and Jacob Sampson
The story based on the 1988 children’s novel, is by Ronald Dahl (“Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”, “James And The Giant Peach”). Dahl, a bit a character himself, whose lessons come in bits and pieces as he calls out the adults in the room who treat Matilda with disdain and suspicion, as in her dishonest father, egocentric mother and cruel to the point of abusive, school principal, Miss Agatha Trunchbull (consider the name). 

In 2012 it won seven Oliver Awards and made its official stop at the Ahmanson in 2015. It was part of Moonlight’s summer season last year to the delight of parents and patrons. It was the same at feeling at the Coronado Playhouse on the afternoon I attended.

And why not? There were more beautiful, enthusiastic and motivated and committed youngsters on stage than the eye could count. In The Playbill it mentions fifteen new faces added to those who performed there in other productions.

Anthony Zelig (Center)
Matilda is a ten -year old bookworm who enlightens her teachers and those around her that reading is an admirable act even in the confines of her house where her parents think books are disgusting. Matilda is on a mission, like it not, to follow her best instincts or otherworldly insights not to fall into the dregs of her family’s misdeeds; and they are many.

Matilda (Reese McCulloch at my performance, alternates with Luna Olivieri) has been fighting for her place in the world since she was born. At home her serial scam artist of a dad (Justin Allen Slagle’s Mr. Wormwood is a kick and a half) is the dumb and dumber father who wanted a boy to follow in his -one step ahead of getting knocked by the angry Russians he cheated. What he got was a young lady with powers he could not fathom.
Reese McCulloch, Anthony Zelig and Aislinn Lowenberg
As soon as he saw Matilda was a girl (where’s her thingy?) he went bonkers so continued calling her ‘Boy’. “You’re a Wormwood, start acting like one!”

Her dingbat mom (an effective Kaitlin Sten) dismisses her as reading too many books (“Loud”) and not concentrating on her looks. She calls her a little ‘twit’ and a ‘scab’. 

At school the headmistress, the grotesque Miss Turnchbull (Anthony Zelig fits the part to the nine’s) blames Matilda when another of her classmates at Crunchem Hall pulls a stunt on her. Later on in the show Matilda gets her comeuppance.

The even headed and starry eyed girl with her telekinetic powers manages to keep her cool with her books, her looks (as in her eyes) and the comfort of her loving teacher Miss Honey (Aslinn Lowenberg with a beautiful voice- “This Little Girl”, “My House”) and the friendship of the concerned librarian Miss Phelps (Elise Feyedelem).

With Miss Phelps she shares a long and involved story about an acrobat (Grace Rice) and an escapologist (Jacob Sampson last seen in “The Old Man and The Old Moon”) who wanted to have a baby and the tragedy that followed.

Reese McCulloch and Justin Allen Slagle
Her stories to the librarian are almost a take off of “The Tale Of The Thousand and One Nights”. These meetings in the library keep Matilda and Ms. Phelps connected.

“A blessing on your head” to director Rayme Sciaroni (such stories ‘inspire my life with humor, laughter and a lot of love’) as it takes a miracle and whole lot of patience to direct a bevvy of youth, who are as well rehearsed as this ensemble of youngsters, and in addition, make it look easy.

Alyssa Anne Slagle is credited with choreography. There was a minimum of dancing but there is lots of movement with the enthusiastic youth and adult ensemble all pitching in and having fun.

The Matilda Band and conductor Nina Gilbert on Keyboards along with five musicians added subtle background support. 
Aislinn Lowenberg and Kaitlin Sten
Set designer Tony Cucuzzella features stacks of wooden alphabet blocks that are moved around, simple boxes are used for furniture and in the background projections (no credit) of the escape artist, as is the writing on the chalkboard; all effective tools.

 Lisa Samson designed the school dress outfits and casual PE outfits. Chloe Oliana M Clark designed the effective lighting and Michael Cook the sound (that had a few glitches and could have been louder)

Rachael VanWormer acted as dialect coach, no small fete this, as all of the actors remained in character with some form of English accent throughout, even the tiniest of them. I indeed got a kick watching the expressions on their little faces; so serious.

If you recall in “Les Miserables” Gavriche sings of “What little people can do”. And so in “Matilda”, she is quoted as saying, “Even if you’re little you can do a lot.”

From the mouths of babes.

See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Feb 23rd
Organization: Coronado Playhouse
Phone: 619-435-4856
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1835 Strand Way, Coronado, CA 92118
Ticket Prices: Thursday $22, Friday $27, Saturday $28, Sunday $25.

Active Military, Student & Senior Discounts. 

Photo Credit: Ken Jacques

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