Broadway World Review

MATILDA at John W. Engeman Theater

Nov. 21, 2019  
By Melissa Giordano 

Northport’s John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a thrilling production of Tony award-winner Matilda, the musical. The lavish incarnation, superbly directed by Igor Goldin, runs at the exquisite Long Island venue through December 29th. And, based on the audience reaction opening weekend, you may want to get your tickets quickly.

Based on the classic 1988 Ronald Dahl children’s book, we follow five-year-old Matilda. She’s precocious, loves to read, and, unfortunately, has a horrible family. However, she knows what she wants and her worth which is beyond amazing. It is also hilarious when she gets revenge on everyone who have been needlessly unkind to her.

Elsa Dees and AnnaBelle Deaner alternate the titular role. Elsa is enjoyable, has great stage presence for someone so young, and brings lots of laughs when needed as this show is kind of an emotional roller. I had the pleasure of previously seeing AnnaBelle in productions of Annie and Once at the Engeman. She is such a firecracker and also a great choice to portray Matilda. It is also a treat seeing Michael Perrie, Jr. back on the Engeman stage as Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s rotten father. He does put a great comedic spin on the role. In all honesty, the entire company is truly top-notch.

On the brilliant creative team, Nate Bertone‘s set is well done. Enhanced by Jose Santiago’s atmospheric lighting and Mara Newbery Greer’s entertaining choreography, you will be captivated by this production as you leave the theatre. Leave it to the Engeman for another visually stunning show.

The Engeman will not disappoint and this is indeed a must see for the holiday season. A top quality production, talented & beautiful cast, and a classic tale make for an exhilarating evening of theatre.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

Theater Review: Kids take center stage as ‘Matilda the Musical’ arrives in Northport for the holidays

November 21, 2019
By Rita J. Egan

“Matilda the Musical” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport Nov. 14 with all the spunk of a Broadway production.

Inspired by the 1988 book by Roald Dahl, the musical introduces audience members to the real and imaginary worlds of 5-year-old Matilda Wormwood, who is misunderstood by her dim-witted family. While the Wormwoods make life difficult at home by making fun of her passion for reading and her smarts, the days become even more troublesome when she begins school with the dastardly Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall. However, with her love of reading, a magical imagination and caring teacher Miss Honey on her side, Matilda finds her happy ending.

The musical, with book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and orchestrations and additional music by Chris Nightingale, debuted in England in 2010 and opened on Broadway in 2013. While the show closed on the Great White Way in January of 2017, “Matilda the Musical” is still running at the Cambridge Theater in London. It was also released as a movie in 1996 starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman as the Wormwoods and Mara Wilson as Matilda.

Igor Goldin has directed a superb cast in the Engeman version, which includes many talented children actors. AnnaBelle Deaner and Elsa Dees alternate in the role of Matilda. On the night of Nov. 15 when I reviewed the musical, AnnaBelle played the part. The actress is darling in the role and portrays Matilda perfectly as the brave and precocious girl she is. She hits every note during her solos and her version of “Quiet” is beautiful and touching.

AnnaBelle along with her fellow youth actors stole many scenes. During one depicting the first day of school, they along with the ensemble performed a sensational “School Song” where everyone involved was strong in both vocals and dance moves. The company also delivers a fantastic “When I Grow Up,” the signature song from the musical.

Sara Gallo as Mrs. Wormwood and Michael Perrie Jr. as Mr. Wormwood are hilarious. While the two characters aren’t the best at parenting, Gallo and Perrie are pros at garnering laughs from the audience. Gallo plays her character to the hilt during the song “Loud” as she and Al Lockhart as Rudolpho, her dancing partner, show off some fantastic dance moves. And Perrie’s vocals are strong on “All I Know,” known as “Telly” in the Broadway and London versions. He also does a wonderful job interacting with the audience toward the end of intermission. Richard Westfahl as Michael Wormwood is also funny as Matilda’s dim-witted brother.

Dane Agostinis as Miss Trunchbull, the Olympic Hammer-Throwing Champion headmistress who believes children are maggots, plays the antagonist role perfectly. Agostinis can deliver her songs smoothly without breaking character despite the funny lines and laughs from the audience. Kate Fahrner as Miss Honey is simply endearing and sings a beautiful “My House” in the second act.

Emily Kelly as The Acrobat and Alex Herrera as The Escapologist are delightful, especially when Herrara joins Matilda on the song “I’m Here.” Nicole Powell was a charming Ms. Phelps, the librarian who looks forward to Matilda’s stories. Jamie Colburn as the Doctor and Sergei rounds out the cast perfectly.

On the night that I attended the show, I was fortunate to have with me 15-year-old Jonathan Guttenberg, who has seen countless productions, including “Matilda the Musical” on Broadway and London. Jonathan said “School Song” and “Revolting” were his favorite numbers in the Engeman production because they were both powerful and thought the theater did a phenomenal job.

Scenic designer Nate Bertone has put together a fun and colorful set with clever oversized books that fold out one way to serve as the Wormwood’s living room and another to provide the backdrop for the library. Mara Newbery Greer also has choreographed several energetic dance numbers, which the actors have mastered, including the youngest members of the youth ensemble, with special mention to Lily Tamburo.

With the chilly weather settling in along the North Shore, “Matilda the Musical” has arrived just in time with its funny, heart-warming story and will be a hit with local theatergoers of all ages.

The Theatre Guide Review

Matilda – The John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

November 19, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

The John W.  Engeman Theater in Northport has selected a critically acclaimed powerhouse with Roald Dahl’s Matilda– winner of seven Olivier Awards, including Best Musical, and five Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical!  Directed by Igor Goldin and running from November 14th- December 29th, this delightful and uplifting tale of a courageous young girl reminds us that- no matter our circumstances- it is never too late to change our story!

Matilda tells the tale of a clever child born into a family who is less than thrilled with her arrival.  Add to that her proclivity to read and her assertion that she, in fact, is a GIRL, and she finds herself frequently mocked and criticized by her parents and ignored by her witless brother.  Things don’t look much better for her when she starts school and encounters the sadistic and tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull; however, hope prevails in the shape of her charming teacher, Miss Honey, and just a touch of magic.  The result of all this is a touching, tragic, and enchanting story, which both breaks your heart and lifts your spirits!

From start to finish this show is highly engaging and beautifully performed!  The set, designed by Nate Bertone, is masterfully constructed, and serves to enhance the overall staging, while Mara Newbery Greer’s clever choreography uses the set and props to underline and intensify the musical performances.  Moreover, the junior cast members of this show were remarkable to watch! Each young man and woman was both highly engaging and believable in his or her role. Their voices and stage presence exceeded my expectations; it is apparent that these young performers are both talented and professional.  Furthermore, Miss Elsa Dees is truly impressive as the title character; her vocals are melodious, while her pacing and delivery make Matilda feel both nuanced and genuine. Michael Perrie Jr. and Sara Gallo (Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood) are terribly terrific as the selfish and imbecilic parents of the beloved prodigy.  They are each artfully able to make such reprehensible characters appear both despicable and diverting. Kate Fahrner skillfully portrays Miss Honey with all the saccharine sweetness you would expect of her namesake, which only intensifies the cruelty of her gruesome counterpart, Miss Trunchbull. Add to that an absolutely hilarious portrayal of the despotic and diabolical headmistress by Dane Agostinis- his rendition of “The Hammer” had me practically in tears- and you have the makings of a fantastic cast and a fabulous show!

While the story of a precocious young girl who spends all her time in the library doesn’t sound like the makings of a riveting plot, this show delivers a highly engaging storyline- and the Engeman Theater completes the experience with a fabulous production team and cast!

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