Theaters are houses of magic. Events transpire that don’t occur in our everyday lives. Stories unfold and are told in thrilling, exciting ways that captivate us, leave us breathless, emotionally charged, moved. Such an event is taking place at Durham Performing Arts Center: Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, with book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, playing now through Sunday.
If the story is unfamiliar, it’s actually pretty simple, albeit a little dark. A bookish young girl, with unrelentingly heinous parents, strives to discover her happiness and place in the world, while also discovering that she has special powers.
Matilda is a winning achievement of musical theater: insightful, infectious music; sharp direction by Matthew Warchus; inventive, energetic choreography by the always impressive Peter Darling (who made a similar splash showcasing his broad abilities in Billy Elliot); and jaw-dropping visuals from Rob Howell’s set and costume design and Hugh Vanstone’s lighting design.
On Tuesday night, Sarah McKinley Austin was sweet and mighty as the title character. She handled the size of the role handily, though she sometimes reads a bit flat in some of the scenes. She scores big during the early number, “Naughty,” and really shines while telling the story of The Escape Artist (Justin Packard) and The Acrobat (Ashley Elizabeth Hale), a tale to which she returns throughout the piece.
Cassie Silva and Quinn Mattfeld winningly play Matilda’s devilish parents, solidly embracing, and somehow selling, the darkest depths of their characters. Matilda’s arch-nemesis, Miss Trunchbull, is portrayed by David Abeles as a menacing, larger-than-life head mistress who is prone to inflicting violence and torture as punishment. Abeles carries it off well, although he never fully embodies Trunchbull’s facets.
Jennifer Blood is a sweet and loving Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher. Her rendition of “My House” resonated throughout the theater.
Although younger children may have some difficulty with the piece — it does get quite heavy and a little frightening, at times. KIt also clocks in at over two-and-a-half hours, and it could feel quite long — but it’s a winning show. The talent on stage is top-notch, though I couldn’t help but think of our own local pool of actors and designers while watching it. I look forward to when the license becomes available and one of our local companies scoops it up. Our community deserves a crack at it. I look forward to taking in that production, as well.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 20th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-MATILDA-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20160120; Jan. 20th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/review-matilda-the-musical-stands-up/article_d7c6b21a-bfca-11e5-bd5d-2356b52ce77f.html and Jan. 14th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/coming-to-dpac-magical-tony-winning-light-of-matilda-the/article_ed210dbc-ba53-11e5-8f56-83ddbe7ecb43.html (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); Jan. 17th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article55794020.html; Jan. 20th Burlington, NC Times-News review by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/matilda-the-musical-is-full-of-heart/ and Jan. 13th preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/touring-matilda-show-visits-durham-next-week/; and Jan. 20th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/dpacs-matilda-stays-true-to-the-original-work/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 21st Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/four-time-2013-tony-award-winner-matilda-the-musical-dramatizes-roald-dahls-book/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Roald Dahl’s MATILDA THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21, 8 p.m. Jan. 22, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 23, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $40-$155. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2019437.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: http://www.DPACnc.com/events/detail/matilda-the-musical and https://www.facebook.com/events/959350000797272/.
THE TOUR: http://us.matildathemusical.com/tour/ and http://www.ibdb.com/Production/View/500688.
TOUR CAST: http://us.matildathemusical.com/tour/cast-creative/cast/.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://us.matildathemusical.com/tour/cast-creative/creative/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://us.matildathemusical.com/tour/media/video/.
AUDIO PREVIEWS: http://us.matildathemusical.com/tour/media/audio/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.DPACnc.com/news/detail/casting-announced-for-the-first-national-tour-of-matilda-the-musical-at-DPAC-january-19-24-2016.
2015-16 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.DPACnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2015-16.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.DPACnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23rd, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24th, performances.
Matilda (1988 children’s book): http://www.roalddahl.com/roald-dahl/stories/1980s/matilda (official web page) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_%28novel%29 (Wikipedia).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.tonyawards.com/pdf/Matilda_LessonPlans_lo.pdf (Penguin’s Classroom Classics).
Roald Dahl (British writer and screenwriter, 1916-90): https://www.roalddahl.com/ (official website), http://us.matildathemusical.com/creative/roald-dahl/ (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/8343 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001094/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Dahl (Wikipedia).
Matilda the Musical (2010 Stratford-upon-Avon, 2011 West End, and 2013 Broadway): http://www.matildathemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.timminchin.com/matilda/ (Tim Minchin’s web page), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/493193 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001094/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_the_Musical (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://broadwayinchicago.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Matilda-Study-Guide.pdf (Broadway in Chicago).
Tim Minchin (music and lyrics): http://www.timminchin.com/ (official website), http://us.matildathemusical.com/creative/tim-minchin/ (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/493197 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2423358/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Minchin (Wikipedia).
Dennis Kelly (book): http://us.matildathemusical.com/creative/dennis-kelly/ (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/73661 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2393111/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Kelly (Wikipedia).