Proof positive that juggernauts come in all sizes was demonstrated April 11 when a five-year-old little miss from England—Matilda, by name—settled into the Shubert for what looks like a leisurely stay, dragging her seven Oliviers (the most any show has won) behind her.
It's a great big grizzly of a part, so much so that it has been drawn and quartered for four girls who each get a night of their own in rotation. Opening-night honors were done by Sophia Gennusa, by virtue of a drawing, but director Matthew Warchus brought out the other three—Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro—to take their bows at the curtain call with the designated star.
These pint-sized pretties have a heavy load to carry in this musicalization of Roald Dahl's beloved 1988 children's story. Matilda, you see, is the downside of being born a genius into the ignorant British middle class who acquire everything they need to know from the "telly" and revile the child who reads.
Sensing an incipient intellectual in the house, her slacker dad and self-absorbed mum send her packing to a primary school, whose headmistress, Agatha Trunchbull, is a 1969 champion hammer-thrower only too happy to hammer all this book-loving out of her.
The only sources of light in Matilda's dark world come from a Jamaican librarian who listens to the tales she spins and a wonderfully sympathetic and supportive teacher, Miss Honey, who timorously defies the forces who bully and abuse her. Is it any wonder the child soon hits the library stacks, asking, "Where's the revenge section?" Eventually, her fevered brain develops telekinetic powers, which enable her to Carrie on accordingly, vanquishing the silly people who persecute her.
The production that the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Dodgers have installed on Broadway has been recast stateside from the ground up—save for Bertie Carvel, who reprises his hilarious Olivier-winning work as the evil Miss Trunchbull; Lauren Ward, the American actress who plays Miss Honey, and Ted Wilson, one of the British lads in the cast whose parents got a job-transfer to New Jersey.
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