Friday, 22 April 2016

Matilda the Musical, Princess Theatre, Melbourne

"Matilda" was one of Roald Dahl's last novels - a celebration of a heroine who just really really likes reading, enough to develop special powers that see her through a particularly horrible family life and a school led by a sadistic headmistress. It's not, perhaps, his most densely plotted book, but the space between the incidences leaves plenty of room for songs, dances and other diversions, which the musical gratefully accepts.

Tim Minchin's songs contain a lot of ready wit and a fair bit of whimsical sweetness (although there are one or two songs where the lyrics are too dense to be easily made out through a chorus of children) and Dennis Kelly's script is funny enough to avoid emphaisising that this is two-and-a-half hours based on a story that doesn't really have that much content. And Matthew Warchus' staging is a visual feast, with moveable bookshelves framing the space nicely, and a tone that moves between intimate drama (particularly in the scenes between MAtilda and the kindly Miss Honey) and broad panto (with Miss Trunchbull in particular, though also a fair bit of Matilda's family).

Alanna Parfett is the girl at the centre (for this performance anyway, there are four girls alternating the lead) - she's a very sensible, logical performer with a sweet sense of wit and intelligence to her. Elise McCann manages the tricky job of being nice without being wet as the kindly Miss Honey. James Millar steals every scene he's in as the villainous Miss Trunchbull. Similarly scene stealing are the smarmy dad (Daniel Friedricksen), blithely unaware mum (Nadia Komazec, understudying in for this performance in a "wouldn't have noticed she was the understudy if I hadn't checked" performance), dopey brother (Daniel Raso) and mum's flouncy dance partner Rudlolpho (Travis Khan).

This is big-budget family musical theatre as it should be - drilled to perfection, funny, heartwarming, fancy, spectacular and all-round entertaining. The whole package. Absolutely worth the trip.

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