BY SANDY STAGGS
Matilda: The Musical based on Roald Dahl’s book is the hottest new property on the market this year. With two high-profile community theatre productions in the Upstate since last summer, Dorman High School theatre’s winter version gives these productions a run for their box office numbers.
It’s so refreshing to see the performing arts in Spartanburg valued as much as football and this production directed by Leah Wren, has all the bells and whistles of big budget professionalism. And let me say that any school bold enough to do a musical on this scale in late January (as opposed to the spring/end of semester), is a winner in my book.
Gorgeous meticulous sets, sparkling costumes, mega-dance numbers (and they look good!), beautiful voices, star turns by the leads, a live orchestra and as always, revolutionary video design — technical director Troy McDowell, Jr. is light years ahead of all professional and community theatre in the upstate in cutting-edge and bold video design.
Leading this nearly 50 member cast is 7th grader Avery Mason as Matilda, a young gifted girl who is a prodigy with special burgeoning extra-sensory powers and loves, loves, loves to read – well beyond adult level fare So much, in fact, that her crooked father (Peyton Rollins) and narcissistic ballroom dancing mother (the magnificent Sarah Hoffman) loathe Matilda and her hobbies.
Mason exhibits that special quality that is difficult to quantify, She just has “it”! Pitch perfect on every song (“Naughty,” “Quiet”) and a commanding presence on every cue. Mason anchors this production gloriously.
Also, a hoot in the show is the big bully headmistress Miss Trunchbull, traditionally a drag role and in this case filled by an impressive and fearless Cooper Beck. A performer first, Beck dazzles in all of the razzmatazz of the moment: vicious, repressive. Unrepentant.
And as the tender heart of the show, Sarah Wren, the best soloist in the cast, shines as the empathetic teacher Miss Honey, whose secret comes to light be the end of the play.
Also, a special shout out to Charlie Grant in dual roles of the doctor (“Miracle”) and escapist, and Helena Bennett-Jones as Mrs. Phelps), the eager librarian who cant get enough of Matilda’s storytelling.
Appropriate for all ages – though the little ones may not catch all of the dialogue in hardcore authentic British accents – the entire family will come away with the message of love, the joy of reading and bullies are not welcome. Oh and don’t waste your life in front of the Telly!
The splendid choreography (“Miracle,” “When I Grow Up”) and an exotic Latin ballroom sequence, is by Blair Dawkins (also Associate Director) and Lauren Carlson.
Vocal direction is by Alvetta Smith, with Dave Bruce conducting h pit, consisting primarily of wind and brass musicians. And Chris Drew is master carpenter/rigger on this production.
Matilda: The Musical by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin continues through February 1 at Dorman Fine Arts Career Center, 100 Cavalier Way in Roebuck. Tickets are only $5.