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"Roald Dahl's Matilda," show #885

I do believe Roald Dahl would be happy with the stage musical adaptation of one of his most treasured stories. Dennis Kelly’s book does justice to Dahl’s characters and plot while still finding support for Tim Minchin’s whimsical, and often-boppy, score to have grounding. Selma Arts Center has entered their closing weekend of a simply terrific production of Matilda, helmed confidently and with rapturous pacing by Adrian Oceguera and Nicolette C. Anderson. Complemented by Kaylee Hernandez and Morgan Blackburn story-driven and exciting choreography, this Matilda is a must-see for fans of musical theatre.

(Charlotte Nelson (Matilda-Naughty Cast); Photo source: Selma Arts Center)

I had the pleasure of seeing the Naughty Cast deliver a committed, well-executed performance, led by an earnest and talented Charlotte Nelson as the titular heroine. Matilda Wormwood is not a “typical kid’s role” with easier keys to sing and trimmed dialogue; it’s a show-driving role that must live up to the iconic-ness the character has gone through in literature and on film. Nelson delivers her comedy, love for reading, and magical powers all the while singing beautifully in “Naughty” and in duet with Scott Chapman’s excellent Escapologist in “I’m Here.” The story-within-the-story, “Acrobat Story” are given passionate and elevated delivery with Nelson’s superb storytelling ability and Kattie Cassidy’s animated interest shown as librarian Mrs. Phelps. Nelson’s immediate student-teacher chemistry opposite a perfectly cast Willow Rogers as Miss Honey brings a level of endearing charm that not all child actresses can achieve in such a short amount of scene work. Rogers’s portrayal of the loving Miss Honey comes across as authentic and genuine, only leveled up by her superb vibrato and timbre in a wonderfully emoted and sung “My House.”

(Willow Rogers (Miss Honey-Naughty Cast); Photo source: Selma Arts Center)

David McAllister’s Trunchbull holds the right calibration between cartoonish antagonist and frightening villain. McAllister’s vocal calisthenics in dialect and song are solid, especially in the act two “The Smell of Rebellion.” Emily Swalef is hilarious from start to finish as Mrs. Wormwood, with a belt that the Selma Arts Center can hardly contain. Her turn at “Loud” has the vocal gravitas and choreographic fluidity to make it a highlight among the many well-performed production numbers. Complementing Swalef in song and dance is standout Ethan Magill as Rudolfo, whose flourish as the dance instructor is enjoyable and finely-tuned in scenes and song.

(David McAllister (Miss Trunchbull); Photo source: Selma Arts Center)

Other featured standout performances come from Joseph Hill’s slimy Mr. Wormwood, Manuel Dolores’s adorable Bruce, and Roxanne Arevalo’s endearing Lavender. Glenda Stewart gives a fantastic turn as the Acrobat, executing her aerial routines with finesse and athletic grace. Beyond the acting talent is a fantastic set design, constructed by Erik Anderson. The stage is donned with flats and shelves of books, and with a few smartly placed doors and a staircase the scenes are given room to breathe and scenes fluidity to their shifts and contextualization. Nicolette C. Anderson’s lighting design flourishes with moody specials and exciting brights and colors.

(Glenda Stewart (Acrobat); Photo source: Selma Arts Center)

With only a few more showings left, do find your way to the magical world of Matilda at the Selma Arts Center. The Naughty cast closes out the weekend with shows tonight and tomorrow. With this family-friendly treat, it doesn’t matter if you find your escape in books, television, or theatre, this show has a little bit for everyone!

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