The Theatre Guide Review

Matilda – The John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review

Matilda Children’s Ensemble. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.
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!

AnnaBelle Deaner (Matilda), Kate Fahrner, Miss Honey) and Children’s Ensemble. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

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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