MATILDA RECEIVES OVATION
IN ITS PREMIER IN S.J.
By Iride Aparicio
Photos by Joan Marcus
GABBY GUTIERREZ and JENNIFER BOWLES who played the Principal roles of Matilda and Miss Honey
SAN JOSÉ, CA— ROALD DAHL’s MATILDA the Musical, premiere in San José with GABRIELLE (GABBY) GUTIERREZ) little in size, but gigantic in talent, twinkling like a new star in her role of Matilda, on the stage of the Center for the Performing Arts.
In spite that the show’s first act looked “confused” and the dialogue and lyrics of the songs were intelligible at times, the actors performances on that night were masterful. At the end MATILDA received an standing ovation.
Written my ROALD DAHL, as a children’s novel in l988, Matilda is the story of a very intelligent little girl with “special” powers. Sadly, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood,(MAT HARRINGTON and DARCY STEWART) who already have an older son, (DARREN BURKETT) and are more involved in their own endeavors: Mr Wormwood, selling used Dodge Cars and his wife competing in dance contests, simply ignore Matilda (GUTIERREZ).
Feeling “unwanted” the child tries to escape her sad home at school, but there, her headmistress Miss Agathe Trunchbull, ( DAN CHAMEROY) is a sadistic tyrant who believe that children are maggots, and instead of “teaching” them prefers to torture the students creating fear in them. This is another reason why Matilda spends her after-school hours reading books at the school’ library, and making up fantastic stories, which she shares with Mrs. Phelps (KEISHA T. FRASER) the librarian.
Matilda, has no friends and she knows that she is misunderstood by everyone, but she has self esteem and she firmly believes that because life is not fair it does not mean that you must grin and bear it. She thinks that If you always take it on the chin and bare it, nothing will change.
At school, her above-average intelligence, had been discovered by Miss Honey.(JENNIFER BOWLES) her class teacher who not only starts challenging her mind, but even invite her to her house, a little shack. And in an uncanny incident of a white scarf, the girl discovers that, without her knowing it, the story that she created, about an escapologist and a woman acrobat, is the life story of Miss Honey.
And after Matilda discovers her teacher’s “secret” she, decides to “teach a lesson to the grown ups by demonstrating her “super-natural” powers to Miss Trunchbull. In an unexpected way, Matilda finds the love she had long for all her life, and like in a fairy tale, her own life story has a happy ending.
Presented as part of the Broadway San José 2016-2017 season, the first national tour of
MATILDA the Musical, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Dodgers, directed by Tony Award® winner MATTHEW WARCHUS with a book by Award®-winning playwright DENNIS KELLY and music and lyrics by Australian comedian, musician and composer TIM MINCHIN, was not smooth in its opening night for the press.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the opening scene in the first act, where many children, boys and girls, wearing different costumes stand behind a large table with a white tablecloth and a cake on its top, celebrating their birthdays singing “I am a miracle.” with each one expressing aloud his or her belief that for their parents they are “Special Miracles” was confusing. Many in the audience thought that the birthday party was to celebrate Matilda’s birthday, and they were confused as to why the scene was presented Before Matilda’s birth. What may have caused the confusion, however, may have been that the dialogue and the lyrics of the songs in this scene were intelligible.
Matilda’s life, in the musical, starts on the following scene representing a hospital ward, with a doctor (JUSTIN PACKARD) informing Matilda’s mother that she is nine-months pregnant with the words: "A child, Mrs. Wormwood, the most precious gift the natural world can bestow upon us has been handed to you”, and she, frustrated because she was stopped from boarding a plane to go to Spain to compete in a dance contest, screaming to the doctor: “I don’t want a baby.”
In the rest of the musical, the story is told in a series of skits in which we see the baby (Matilda) growing from a baby, to a toddler in a carriage, and then starting school at the age of five. Because it is a musical The dialogue is short and usually sung, the skits are short, and they move rapidly. There are many scenes and they change from the inside of Matilda’s home, showing his dysfunctional father calling Matilda “boy” with the girl reminding him over and over again: “I am a girl.” We understand her home life better, when in another home scene, her mother makes fun of her for reading books instead of watching TV, and her father unable to destroy her library’s book by stomping on it, ripping its pages, one by one and shredding them with his own fingers.
The most delightful scenes, in this musical however are the scenes inside and outside the school,but not when Miss Trunchbull (CHAMEROY) humiliatiates the children, and tells their teacher: "You have no idea what you are doing .You believe in kindness and fluffiness and books and stories, Miss Honey, and this is not teaching” or make them sick, by forcing one of them to eat a whole chocolate cake
MATILDA’s School Children Cast
On its opening night, the second act looked better organized than the first one and the story begins taking shape as it leads it to the end. And while every performance was on character, some performances were better than the others.
Among the best, was the performance of Matilda, (GUTIERREZ) who played her role naturally, sang well, and vocalized well her dialogue, including her Russian. GUTIERREZ looked sure of herself in her role and she was able to master her rainbow of emotions, We see her happy, sad, enthusiastic, thoughtful and above all, bearing her “pain” of being unloved by her parents, with courage. Hers was a professional performance, specially for a girl her age.
Masterful also was the performance of BOWLES as Miss Honey, and also very natural. She has a marvelous tone of voice and vocalized her lyrics well. Also in character, were Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, so much in character, that many in the audience may have been tempted to reporting them to the authorities for child endangerment. Another role played with realism was the role of FRASER, as Mrs. Phelps as a librarian. We could really feel her excitement listening to Matilda’s stories, her caring for Matilda, and her pain, when Matilda’s story did not have a good ending.
DAN CHAMEROY, as Mrs. Trunchbull, had a role that allowed him to do so much with it, but he over-exaggerate it. His character did not feel “real” to the audience. In some scenes, CHAMEROY over-acted the role, and we felt he was acting it. We should end by saying that the singing and performances of all the children in the show was great.
As a musical, Matilda is a winner of 70 international awards including 4 Tony Awards ® for Best musical.
MATILDA will continue playing at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, until March 12. For tickets go to you can go online to www.broadwaysanjose.com or order by phone by calling: (800) 982-2787