Alternating between sad and touching and brash and silly, 2nd Star Productions’ Matilda the Musical inspires viewers to give themselves “permission to shine” and to be a little bit naughty, but only when standing up to a bully, of course. Matilda the Musical is based on the beloved story by Roald Dahl. The musical’s book is by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. 2nd Star Director Angela Germanos gives us a production filled with talented children and exceptional adult performances as well. Produced by Katie Riegel and Laura Fisher, the whole musical is presented with a sort of twinkle in its eye, not taking itself too seriously and allowing the audience to truly relax and enjoy the show.
Before the first act even begins, the house rules are read to the audience as if we are being scolded by a disapproving headmistress, alluding to the unrelenting disdain to come. The first act’s musical highlights include “Miracle,” where we learn how unwanted Matilda is from birth, “Naughty,” and “The Hammer,” where we meet the most Trunchbully that ever Trunchbulled — Meg Nemeth as Agatha Trunchbull, the headmistress of Matilda’s school. I could not get over Nemeth’s performance; she played Trunchbull with the perfect haughty intensity every second she was on stage.
Trevor Greenfield as Mr. Wormwood (Matilda’s father, who continuously and hilariously calls her a boy throughout much of the musical) is a riot, Malarie Zeeks as Mrs. Wormwood (Matilda’s mother, who was annoyed at the birth of Matilda because it caused her to miss her ballroom dance competition) is pitch-perfectly gaudy yet lovable, and Tonya Mayo showcased a beautiful singing voice as Miss Honey (Matilda’s teacher).
One disappointment for me and other members of the audience at the performance I attended was that the actors’ voices were at times difficult to hear. On the plus side, there is a fantastic live orchestra in the pit, and their jazzy interludes helped entertain the audience during the many set changes throughout the production. Another adult performance worth mentioning is Eric Meadows as the Doctor in Act One and Sergei in Act Two. His melodious vocal performance and impeccable comedic timing added much to the performance.
Act One wraps up with “Bruce,” featuring scene-stealer Solomon Howley-Paoletti as the boy who snuck a piece of Ms. Trunchbull’s chocolate cake. Howley-Paoletti’s joy in performing was evident in this number and the rest of the show.
After intermission, Greenfield as Mr. Wormwood brilliantly re-warms up the audience with some direct interaction and humor, leading right into “All I Know.” Grace Gavin, who played Matilda in the performance I attended (Tabitha Popernack plays the role at alternating performances), had also warmed up by this point. She turned in a stellar performance of “Quiet,” one of the most poignant songs in the show. I should also mention that the costuming was immersive and on point, thanks to the design by Michelle Hickman. In this act, we get much more of the story-within-the-story that began in Act One, and the emotions run high as we hurtle toward the conclusion of the musical. Just as Ms. Phelps, the librarian (played by Heather Norden) had hoped for Matilda’s story to have a happy ending, Matilda the Musical ends happily and we audience members left smiling and maybe feeling a little bit naughty, too.
Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Matilda the Musical plays through October 14, 2023, presented by 2nd Star Productions performing at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Pk Dr in Bowie, MD. For tickets ($25 general admission; $22 for seniors 60+, active military, and students; $15 for children under 12), buy them at the door, or purchase them online.
The program for Matilda is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are required only on October 8.
Music Direction by Sarah Mitchell; Orchestra Music Direction by Joseph Simon; Stage Management by Kristi Gardner; Assistant Direction by Diane Schwartz; Choreography by Rosslyn Burrs; Properties Design by Angela Germanos and Diane Heath; Set Design and Painting by Angela Germanos and Jane B. Wingard; Assistant Choreography by Andrea Trent; Special Effects Design and Construction by Gene Valendo; Assistant Stage Management by Sally Dodson; Lighting Design by Bowie Playhouse Staff.