My children loved books by Roald Dahl growing up. He wrote some classic stories for children, like James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. One of his funniest and most heart-warming stories is coming to the historic Wells Theatre as a musical. Virginia Stage Company presents “Matilda the Musical” from May 22 – June 2.
Roald Dahl is considered “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. My children loved his books because his stories are full of twisted humor. The adults are the villains and can’t be trusted. The children are the heroes. Even though some awful things happen to the children in his stories, the kind-hearted always prevail. The endings are happy.
Matilda tells the story of a brilliant little girl born into the wrong family. Matilda is sweet and intelligent. Her parents and brother are shifty and stupid. Matilda wants to read and learn. Her family sits in front of the television and argues. She believes that “somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.”
There is hope for Matilda. She discovers the Library and all it has to offer, including kindly Mrs. Phelps, the librarian, who introduces Matilda to the world of books.
Matilda begs to go to school. The principal of the school is every child’s nightmare. Agatha Trunchbull is big and mean. She deals out horrible (and funny) punishments. Miss Honey is Matilda’s teacher. She recognizes Matilda’s talents and unusual gifts immediately.
Without giving the ending away, you can be sure it’s happy. There is a wonderful movie adaptation, starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman as Matilda’s awful parents, Harry and Zinnia Wormwood.
“Matilda the Musical” debuted in London by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2010. It made its Broadway debut in 2013 and went on to win five Tony Awards.
I spoke to Laura Agudelo, who plays the role of Mrs. Phelps, the kindly librarian, who helps Matilda find her way. Laura teaches theater at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake and is one of a number of local actors in this production. She saw “Matilda the Musical” on Broadway with her daughter years ago. Mrs. Phelps’s role is greatly expanded in “Matilda the Musical”. She is one of the first adults who accept Matilda as she is. Laura says, “It’s not just a story about Matilda finding a home and love, it’s also a story about two lost souls finding each other.”
The other “lost soul” is Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher. She is played by New York City actor, Abby Church. Actors from New York City are playing several of the lead roles. Agatha Trunchbull, Chris Blem plays the big, mean principal of Matilda’s school, a large man playing a large woman.
“Matilda the Musical” has a big cast and lots of children. Matilda is played by Mesgana Jackson, “a talented ball of energy”. The production features many talented students from the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk.
The Wells Theatre is a perfect venue. It is a small theater, with 630 seats. Everyone has a good view of the stage. This is a great way to introduce your kids to live theater with a show that is funny, lively and heart-warming.