Holly Reichert as Matilda. Credit: Mark Kitaoka
I’ve always loved Roald Dahl’s children's book “Matilda” more than any other of his many classics.
As a kid, I read the book again and again, and in more recent years have read it aloud to my own children more than once. As a victim of abuse myself, there’s always been something deliciously satisfying for me about an overlooked and abused little girl being the hero of her own story, by way of mischief and magic.
I’m not alone. The 1988 classic is one of Roald Dahl’s most beloved and best-selling works worldwide. It’s not hard to see why. Matilda is pure magic — literally.
The story follows a little girl who uses magic to fight back against the powers that be (her abusive parents, her cruel principal) and protect those she loves in the process.
Still, as magical as the book has always been for me, “Matilda” has never seemed quite as magical as it did in Roald Dahl’s “Matilda the Musical,” now playing at Village Theatre.
It was, without question, the best show I have seen in a long time.
What I loved most about the show was how kid-friendly it was while still packing in plenty of entertainment and powerful messages for parents along the way.
I loved the show so much that I plan to go back with my entire family this holiday season
The show offers poignant — but not preachy — commentary about everything from screen time to helicopter parenting while still offering an irreverence, a light-heartedness and a sense of fun that makes it totally accessible for everyone, even families new to theater.
Much of the cast are themselves children, which means that everything down to the show's program appeals to kids. From rousing choreography to marvelous performances the show was, well, show-stopping.
Set design and overall production were a particular highlight, with large wood panels defining the stage, a loft area for acrobatic stunts and swings and ropes used as choreographic props throughout the show.
Needless to say, my daughters (ages 12 and 10) and I were impressed. Over half of the cast is under the age of 12, making their Broadway-worthy performances all the more impressive.
Matilda, the show’s namesake and main character (played by Holly Reichert on the night we saw it), was phenomenal, pulling off an authentic British accent for the full length of the show and managing to command both the strength and sensitivity inherent to the role.
As for the more seasoned members of the cast, they also did not disappoint. Matilda’s father (played by Chris Ensweiler) was particularly hilarious, and Basil Harris (Miss Trunchbull) was my favorite performer of the night, delivering perfect comedic timing while still inspiring the sense of fear and loathing the role should elicit.
In fact, I loved the show so much that I plan to go back with my entire family this holiday season.
It’s not just the show’s cast, crew and set that deliver: Matilda’s greater message, sung by Matilda herself, is a powerful one: "Even if you’re little you can do a lot. You mustn’t let a little thing like little stop you. If it’s not right, YOU have to put it right."
Small and helpless was exactly how I felt when I stepped into the theater on the heels of coverage of the "migrant caravan," growing child refugee tent camps, another mass shooting and the apocalyptic fires raging in California.
I needed Matlida's reminder. We all do.
If you go...
Where: Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah, and Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett