"Matilda" is one of author Roald Dahl’s most-beloved children’s stories. Published in 1988, it tells the story of a little girl with terribly unfit parents who finds solace in reading. At school, she befriends her teacher, Jennifer Honey, and uses her gifts of telekinesis to thwart the evil headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull.
In 2012, "Matilda" was named one of the top 30 all-time children’s novels. A stage musical adaptation made its West End debut in 2011, and won the Laurence Olivier award for Best New Musical. It later premiered on Broadway in 2013.
Now, Theatre 121 brings the endearing tale to life on the Woodstock Opera House stage under the skillful direction of Jordan Rakittke.
The title character of Matilda was played on Broadway by a rotating cast of four young actresses. Rakittke has shied away from casting multiple actresses in the role, instead letting young Story Thiegs carry the load of the show on her tiny but capable shoulders. And, carry the show she does.
Thiegs is absolutely amazing as Matilda. She sings beautifully and she acts the role to perfection.
For comedy relief, it doesn’t get much better than Vincent Prisco and Elaine Cashmore as Matilda’s parents: Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. Mr. Wormwood is so uncaring about his daughter that he doesn’t even realize she’s not a boy. Mrs. Wormwood is far more concerned with practicing for a dance contest than attending to her children’s needs. Emerich Parpart also garners many laughs as Matilda’s dimwitted older brother, Michael.
Matilda’s beloved teacher, Miss Honey, is played with great emotion and stunning voice by Cassidy Reich. We see her truly care about Matilda. It is a touching relationship that makes one’s heart fill with hope.
The wicked headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is played with great masculinity by Alex Fayer in drag. A talented veteran of McHenry County theater, Fayer always puts on a good show and this part is no different. He milks the joke for all it’s worth.
Among the supporting players, Travis Greuel stands outs for his role as a circus escape artist in a story within a story that eventually will pertain to both Matilda and Miss Honey. Greuel wears multiple hats in the play. His role as a Russian mobster also is delightfully funny.
Although not a large role, Miss Wormwood’s dance partner Rudolpho is one of the best parts of the show. Played with great comedic flair by Kevin Wright, you will remember Rudolpho fondly after the performance. Your giggles may even carry over to the next day.
Not to be left out, Tracey Lanman puts on a good show as the friendly librarian who befriends Matilda and helps her cultivate her love of stories.
The ensemble also includes Matthew Schenher, Natalie Ortega, Braden Crothers, Malaika Parpart, Will Madigan, Sophia Stabenow, Lia Hyrkas, Tanner Bennett, Angelina Straus, Thomas Neumann, CJ Arevalo, Britny Hendrickson, Erin O’Brien, Taylor Reich and Kelsey Waughon.
Vocal director Sarah Inendino and orchestra director Anna Zaino both have done their jobs well. The cast is full of dynamic voices, and the orchestra is in fine form. The only complaint is that at times it is hard to hear the vocalists over the orchestra.
The script for "Matilda the Musical" is a bit choppy. There are holes in the story that those who haven’t read the book may find confusing. But the Theatre 121 cast and crew make the best of the material, resulting in a very enjoyable production that is well worth the price of admission. Children and adults will love this show.
"Matilda the Musical" plays Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 22 at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock. For ticket information, contact the box office at 815-338-5300 or go online to WoodstockOperaHouse.com.
• Rikki Lee Travolta has headlined and directed theatrical productions around the country. He has written two novels and a memoir, all revolving around the entertainment world. He currently hosts a popular weekly radio program, "It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee," at 3 p.m. every Friday on 101.5 FM. Rikki Lee also is the founder of It’s Showtime Theatre of Huntley, and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee. He most recently starred in the feature film "The Lurker," opposite Scout Taylor-Compton. For information, visit RikkiLeeTravolta.com.