Wonderfully acted ‘Matilda’ a TCR holiday joy

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Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

Theatre Cedar Rapids — through Dec. 15

ASL Interpreted Performance
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

Theatre Cedar Rapids — Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2:30 p.m.

The “revolting children” of ‘Matilda.’ — courtesy of Theatre Cedar Rapids

Theater Cedar Rapids opened Matilda the Musical, based on Roald Dahl’s book Matilda, on Nov. 15 with a high energy number that sets the tone for the whole show. The song, “Miracle,” poses the question: Who is special, and who decides? The choreography (Erin Helm) is outstanding in this number, and that carries throughout the show.

From there, the audience is invited into the various locales — the Wormwood home, Miss Honey’s classroom, the library — where Matilda not only reads stories but spins tales herself.

Sam Shannon brings the title character beautifully to life in every moment of the show, displaying the curiosity and intelligence of a gifted young girl, along with lending her excellent voice to the production.

Matilda thrives as a student under Miss Honey (Ferin Bergen), while being ignored and belittled by her parents.

Ferin Bergen and Sam Shannon in ‘Matilda.’ — courtesy of Theatre Cedar Rapids

Carrie Houchins-Witt and Aaron Pozdol are ideal in the roles of humorously neglectful parents Mrs. and Mr. Wormwood. Houchins-Witt brings a silliness to the family with her character’s obsession with ballroom dancing. Pozdol’s character is obsessed with making a quick buck and television, providing a darker yet still caricatured father figure.

Pozdol shows up in Linge Lounge to get a beer at the intermission — completely in character — and transitions that into the start of Act II. Rounding out the Wormwood family is Michael (Noah Kanetomo-Blevins) — the type of child who actually fits into the Wormwood family: He watches TV and has no use for learning.

Aaron Pozdol and Carrie Houchins-Witt in ‘Matilda.’ — courtesy of Theatre Cedar Rapids

Matilda, scorned for her love of books and learning at home, finds a friend in librarian Mrs. Phelps, portrayed Courtney Gevaert. As Matilda spins her own tales, Bergen pulls double duty, showing up as the elegant acrobat in her story. Andrew Boddicker features as the escapologist in that same tale.

It is truly hard to pick a highlight in such a wonderfully acted show. Although a minor character with one or two lines, Miguel Davidson is delightful as Mrs. Wormwood’s ballroom dance teacher and partner Rudolpho. Davidson’s presence enchants in every scene he is in.

Finally, one would be remiss not to mention Aaron Murphy’s portrayal of Miss Agatha Trunchbull. Murphy creates a caricature of an evil headmistress that commands the stage, keeping the children (mostly) in line while providing humor for the audience.

Aaron Murphy in ‘Matilda.’ — courtesy of Theatre Cedar Rapids

Musical direction by Benjamin Schmidt is excellent, though the music at times is a bit too overpowering for some of the voices. The clever set design, by S. Benjamin Farrar, deserves particular note, starting with the proscenium outlined in books to the moving desks, shelves and other furniture throughout the show.

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Angie Toomsen’s direction, with assistance from Lisa Kelly, brings this magical story to life. Especially noteworthy is her use of tableau throughout to focus the audience’s attention on certain happenings without requiring a lengthy transition.

The entire ensemble, children and adults alike, work together to bring a wonderful tale to Theatre Cedar Rapids’ stage this holiday season.

There will be an ASL-interpreted performance of Matilda the Musical on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for all performances are $25-50.

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