Tackling the music in Tim Minchin and Dan Kelly’s Matilda: The Musical would be a tall task for an experienced cast of professionals. As such, the quality of Theatre Train and TEd (Theatre Educational)’s production this past weekend says a great deal about the talent of all of its young performers. Whether it be the vocals, choreography or dialogue, Matilda’s cast attacked everything with an infectious energy matched only by the loudness of their neckties.
The performance of a show’s eponymous hero can often make or break the entire production, and luckily the role of Matilda was in fantastic hands with Tallulah McKie. Not only did she hold her own through multiple impressive solo numbers, but she brought a tremendous amount of character to the stage whenever she appeared. On top of all this, she managed to overcome a technical hiccup at the very start of the show and still deliver one of its best and most memorable numbers (Naughty), without missing a step. In every sense, Tallulah brought a level of charisma and confidence to the stage that was well beyond her years.
Not to be outdone, Dylan Shaer (as the dastardly Agatha Trunchbull) made for an excellent foil to young Matilda, managing to steal the show on many occasions. Dylan leaned into the absurdity of the role, bellowing every line with a hilarious conviction that won over the audience immediately. Comedy is a notoriously difficult skill to perfect in front of a live audience, but it is clear that Dylan is on the right track to do so, providing a great deal of the humour that gives this show so much charm.
That being said, the slimy Wormwood family landed their fair share of quips as well, always with impeccable comic timing. The trio of Mr and Mrs Wormwood and their obnoxious son Michael (played by Fred Valvona, Selene Angelini and Charlie Cule respectively) were also effective at being every bit as despicable as the kindly Miss Honey was endearing. Ava Cowan brought a level of sophistication to this role, managing to convey the fairly complex emotional journey of the character despite her wacky surroundings. The chemistry between Ava and Tallulah (as Honey and Matilda) must not be overlooked, and it really elevated each of their performances.
Another standout performer was Lyla Hunter, whom you could never have guessed was acting as a last minute stand-in. She took on the role of Bruce, who’s iconic cake-eating moment made for a spectacular finale to the first act. The entire ensemble rallied around Lyla in this number (simply entitled ‘Bruce’) with a powerful chorus of vocals and possibly the most exciting choreo of any of the numbers. Credit has to go to Katy Edmunds, Leighanne Healey and Hannah Caudle (Director, Acting and Vocal coaches) for having faith in their cast to engage with some really creative staging elements.
It was during these big set pieces that the production was at its best. The passion of everyone on stage was always contagious, and when they performed together as a unit they rarely failed to blow the audience away. The ensemble’s performance of ‘Revolting Children’ at the close of the show was a fantastically feel-good moment, which encapsulated this notion perfectly, sending every member of the audience home more than happy.
As the first joint show for Theatre Train and TEd, Matilda sets a very promising precedent, and I for one can’t wait to see what is next for these extremely talented youth groups.
Reviewed by Michael Mullin