I was beyond lucky to score a ticket for Matilda last Friday night. Since they changed their rush policy from Student Tickets when the Box Office opens to a general lottery, I was able to show up after work with enough time to spare to put my name in the bag. I only needed one ticket – I was hoping to treat myself to a nice night at the theater. I, along with scores of other people, was hoping to be the lucky recipient of a ticket or two.
There were 20 tickets available. My name was called when there were just three tickets left. I stuck my hand up and hollered out “That’s me! And I just need one ticket!” and the crowd cheered that there were still two tickets left as I made my way to the line reserved for us lottery winners.
I waited patiently among the fellow victors as we were ushered into the lobby of the Shubert to pay for our tickets. I handed the woman at the window my money and she gave me change and a partial view ticket in the orchestra – Row G Seat 20. Having worked on tickets for The Performers back in November, I knew exactly where I was sitting and what kind of view I would actually have – the back right corner of the stage was out of view, but other than that, I was at an ideal distance from the action.
Since I had about an hour or so before the show, I treated myself to a slice of heaven at Carve (barbecue chicken pizza… come visit me and I will take you to this Holy Land) and then I walked to 45th/9th for a cookie at Schmackery’s (Choconut Chip… chocolate chunks, coconut, walnuts and sea salt… oh so deliciously indulgent).
Filled to the brim with dinner and dessert, I made my way back to the Shubert and stood among three schools-worth of slightly naughty children (how appropriate…) and a bunch of elderly regular theatre-goers.
After being misdirected by an usher (I knew where I was going, but he insisted I was over another aisle… I wasn’t), I found my way to my seat. I snagged a second Playbill (for my sister) and settled in my seat, hoping whomever I was seated by was friendly.
I hit the seatmate lottery as well. I ended up next to a man a little bit older than me who also loved theater and inappropriate humor. He was up from Florida with some family members (who were seated behind me) and we chatted about our favorite shows. I offered to switch seats with his niece (as she was behind me and maybe 11 or 12 years old), but she declined. They had spent $500+ dollars for the five of them to see the show, whereas I had the best seat out of the lot and paid $27. Oh happy day, indeed.
Matilda is nominated for 12 Tony Awards, so I was anxious to see the show before the ceremony. My favorite show headed into the Tonys is Kinky Boots (which has 13 nominations) and I wanted to see if Matilda was worth all the hype. Matilda and Kinky Boots are two completely different shows, so it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but I still give the edge to Kinky Boots (and I will argue this until it’s not true anymore, but seeing Kinky Boots is the most fun theater-going experience I’ve ever had).
Don’t get me wrong, I was beyond excited to see Matilda. I’m a huge Ryan Steele fan (he’s in the ensemble and dances like a DREAM) and was grateful to finally see Taylor Trensch (Michael/ensemble) on stage having seen his understudy when I went and saw Bare a few months ago. I was also interested in seeing Bertie Carvel play Miss Trunchbull, as he was nominated for a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.
I read the book and saw the movie ages ago, but was actually surprised how little the Broadway show relied on the more fantastical elements of Roald Dahl’s work.
For those of you who do not know the story, Matilda is about a little girl of the same name who is born into a family with god-awful parents (Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood) and an imbecile of an older brother (Michael). They sit around all day watching the television and ripping people off while Matilda reads books and has morals. She is sent to this private school run by the evil Miss Trunchbull – a grown-up bully who likes to punish misbehaved children by throwing them in the chokey (a narrow cupboard of torture), among other torments. The only nice/normal adult is Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher (who sees how gifted Matilda is). Matilda also has these magical powers… like, she can control things with her mind. (This was not all that present in the musical, though… Matilda had powers for about 15-20 minutes in Act 2. And I was like, “That’s it?”)
The musical is a battle between good/a little bit naughty and evil. It’s a dark show with dark, twisted stories (which are mostly told through the eyes/voice of a five year old) and is mostly quite sad. There are moments of cheerfulness and hope and the feeling that things will get better in the future for the good/a little bit naughty characters.
I thought the ensemble was well cast. Everyone’s performance was really great and very energetic (or not, depending on the character). Roald Dahl’s creations are often twisted takes on the norm where his characters’ “normal” is real life’s crazy people who are likely on reality shows on E! or MTV. There are a couple characters whose heads are on straight (like Matilda and Miss Honey, who have the same morality base as Charlie Bucket and his family from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but they are all seen as the outsiders from the rest of the people inhabiting their fictional town.
There were several songs I preferred out of the whole score – my favorites being the opening number “Miracle” (a lively romp that introduces the children as well as the horribleness of the Wormwood parents), “Naughty” (Matilda’s solo about making your own story and how “sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty”), and “Revolting Children” (the school children’s anthem of revolting against Miss Trunchbull).
I was not disappointed with the performances I was looking forward to see in the first place. Since I was seated so close, it was easy to see Ryan and Taylor in the ensemble numbers and follow them as they danced across the stage.
There are four girls who rotate the part of Matilda. The little girl I saw was the same one who performed on Good Morning America the other week. I thought she was great and was amazed as her ability to really run the gamut of emotions throughout the show. Matilda’s been through some serious shit in her five years of living and this little girl pulled it off beautifully.
And Bertie Carvel – my, my my. Though I still give Billy Porter the edge to win Best Actor in a Musical for Kinky Boots, Bertie Carvel was a delight to watch. I didn’t look through the Playbill before the show since I was chatting with my seatmate, but I was gobsmacked when a young guy came out at the stage door and everyone murmured that he was Miss Trunchbull. The man is only a few years older than me (and quite fit), but he masterfully plays a 50+ year old large breasted woman. If I wasn’t so in awe, I would have swooned a bit at the stage door. He didn’t have a marker and asked if anyone had something to write with. I had a green Sharpie, which I promptly leant to him and he looked me in the eye and thanked me with his adorable British accent. After a while he gave my marker back and thanked me for a second time, only to have to come back a moment or so later to borrow it again. He was just so damn polite.
Also polite – every cast member who came out and signed Playbills and took pictures with people. They were very friendly and gracious. I got a picture with Ryan Steele because he’s too adorable for words (I have a picture with him from after Newsies as well) and one of the nicest, most talented people I’ve “met” since I moved here.
I’m glad to have seen Matilda once, but I won’t be rushing back to see it again when there are other shows still to see. I am looking forward to an OBC Recording and their performance on the Tonys. I think Kinky Boots is still the frontrunner for Best Musical, but Matilda was a fun (albeit dark) time at the theater.