Thirty years and counting
What: Matilda the Musical
WHEN: May 17-19, May 31-June 2, June 7-9
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
The logistics involved in bringing to life all of the 16 performances of Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth’s renditions of Matilda the Musical are mind-boggling.
To start with, the play boasts four casts and runs for as many weekends, meaning theatergoers who attended opening night on Fri., May 10 would have an entirely different experience if they were in the audience when the production wraps up at the final matinee on Sun., June 9—not to mention what they’d find if they dropped in on any one of the two weekends of performances in between.
BAAY’s Lisa Markowitz and Evan Engalls shared directing duties for the adroit adaptation of the book based on Roald Dahl’s beloved novel, which was produced in a film version in 1996 before morphing into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Meanwhile, Dana Crediford and a team of student designers deserve credit for their creative costuming, and the more than 100 youth ages 9 to 16 who can be seen onstage get props for committing to telling the story of a unique girl with a vivid imagination who stands up to a bunch of meanies and changes her destiny.
First published in 1988, Dahl’s tale has withstood the test of time, maybe because (spoiler alert) the forces of good eventually win out over those of evil. The plot revolves around Matilda Wormwood, a precocious 5 year old whose parents ignore her to the point where she has to play pranks on them to get them to pay attention to her. She has an ally in her teacher, Miss Honey—who sees how smart Matilda is, and wants to move her up a few grades—but is stymied by the school’s unusually cruel headmistresses, Miss Trunchbull.
Telekinesis, a stolen inheritance, Russian mobsters, a creepy form of punishment dubbed “Chokey,” and a variety of songs are also parts of the musical version of the Matilda, which brings attention to a character whose strengths are never diminished, even when she is ignored or abused by those who are supposed to love her and ensure she receives an education worthy of her intellect.
When the book celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018, original illustrator Quentin Blake drew a number of images of Matilda as he imagined she might have grown into—exploring the world, being an astrophysicist, running the British Library, and more. Around the same time, author Cressida Cowell said a part of her didn’t want to know who the whip-smart kid had grown into.
“Somewhere in our heart of hearts we never want Matilda to grow up,” she said. “We want her to be like Peter Pan—eternally young.”
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