Matilda, The Musical has just made its Asian premiere right here in the Philippines!
The mulitawarded musical, directed by Bobby Garcia, is making its month-long run in Manila for theater-goers to enjoy a sit down experience of the Roald Dahl classic. With Esang De Torres starring as Matilda (and alternating the role with fellow child actresses Joaquin Valdez and Carla Guevarra-Laforteza), it tells the story of a bibliophilic little girl who uses her wit, power, and support to better the life set for her and her classmates.
The support comes primarily from two women figures in her life: Mrs. Phelps, a librarian who is fascinated by Matilda’s storytelling skills, as well as her teacher Miss Honey who, despite her shortcomings and insecurities, feels a special connection to Matilda and a compelling need to develop her mental ability (“This Little Girl”).
The same can’t be said about her family. Her mother lives by a “looks over books” mantra (“Loud”), and aptly prioritizes fashion or ballroom dancing over parenting. Her conman father loves to talk money and would rather see his six-year-old glued to television (“Telly”) than burried in books. Heck, he forgets that she’s a girl—so much that he mistakenly calls her “son” throughout the entire show. Even Matilda’s dimwitted older brother gets more love from them.
School is also problematic. Terror reigns supreme in Crunchem Hall thanks to its former hammer-throwing champion-cum-headmistress Agatha Trunchbull. Unlike Miss Honey, Trunchbull insists cruel punishment (“Nigel”) and discipline (“The Hammer”) is the only effective way of controlling children or “maggots” as she prefers to call them.
Matilda changes the game when she discovers her telekinetic powers. And as the violence continues, the kids gather the courage to stand up to Trunchbull (“Revolting Children”) while Matilda is presented an opportunity too wonderful to pass up.
All of this takes place at the Meralco stage, which is specifically designed to look dark and gloomy, perhaps to better fit the somber scenes of the play. It also provides a juxtaposal backdrop to the slapstick antics of the adults around Matilda.
The musical is well casted. The children are energetic even when they must perform numbers while confidently standing on classroom tables, obedietnly exercising in a jungle gym, or nervously scrambling in and around the Crunchem Hall gate. Matilda, in particular, is not an easy role—especially for an actor as young as 10. Her lines are wordy, sometimes not in English, and the actress playing her must be comfortable saying every one of them. Vocal chops are espescially put to the test in scenes when she would talk and sing at the same time (“I’m Here”), and perform haunting solos (“Quiet”). But Esang delivers—in a perfect British accent, at that. Her performance as the lead would make even Lea Salonga, broadway legend and her former coach on The Voice Kids, proud.
Seasoned thespian Jamie Wilson, meanwhile, does a convincing job as the menacing Miss Trunchbull. His over-the-top persona, combined with his character’s unapologetic methods to maintain so-called peace and order at the school draws audiences in not with hateful disgust, but delightful laughter. The same goes for Matilda’s silly parents, played by Joaquin Valdes and Carla Guevarra-Laforteza. Notable also is Emeline Celis-Guinid as the zealous Mrs. Phelps and Cris Villonco, a.k.a Miss Honey. The latter’s rendition of “My House” and natural sweetness towards the students display her technique and do justice to her character’s name.
Matilda runs until December 10, 2017 at the Meralco Theater in Ortigas Ave. cor. Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Tickets range from P1,500 to P4,000 while shows are scheduled at 8pm on Fridays, 2pm on Weekdays, 2pm & 8pm on Saturdays and 2pm on Sundays. Tickets are available through TicketWorld.
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