One of my biggest personal pop-culture secrets is that I was never able to fully love the Harry Potter franchise. “It’s good,” I’d tell a select number of my closest friends. “But it’s no Matilda.”
Roald Dahl’s Matilda — now there’s a heroine. She’s able to overcome a troubled childhood with unloving caregivers, she’s got super powers, but she’s also super book smart and can out-read any of her peers. She’s basically Harry and Hermione rolled into one, with a lot less whining.
This month, the five-year-old made the leap from page to stage in Matilda: The Musical — with the help of a couple of locals.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Armonk’s Jed Canaan, who, with his wife, Bronna, was a producer on the show. Canaan told me they got involved as soon as they heard there was a Matilda musical coming to London — before it earned more Olivier awards than any single show in England — just because, like me, he was a fan of the book.
He’s not the only one from our area involved with the show. Sophia Gennusa of Harrison is one of the four girls rotating through the cast of Matilda. In fact, she got to play the part on opening night, having her name pulled out of Mr. Wormwood’s hat in a random drawing.
The show opened on April 11. What did critics have to say?
“‘Matilda the Musical,’ the London import that opened on Thursday night, is the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain… As directed by Matthew Warchus, with a bright, efficient book by Dennis Kelly and addictive songs by Tim Minchin, ‘Matilda’ is as much an edge-of-the-seats nail biter as a season-finale episode of ‘Homeland.’ Above all it’s an exhilarating tale of empowerment, as told from the perspective of the most powerless group of all.” — Ben Brantley, The New York Times
“In opening up the story for the stage, and lightening it for children who may not be as experienced with psychological fiction as Matilda herself is, the book writer, Dennis Kelly, has made myriad changes that flatten the book’s oddness.” — Jesse Green, Vulture
“The English hit ‘Matilda,’ which opened Thursday at Shubert Theatre, is a witty musical adaptation of the beloved novel by Roald Dahl and is true to his bleak vision of childhood as a savage battleground. The musical arrives in New York with plenty of hype and awards, and it mostly delivers a thrilling blast of nasty fun, even if it’s a bit swollen and in need of some fine-tuning.” — Mark Kennedy, Associated Press
You can see a preview of the show here:
Hopefully, it’ll get more kids picking up the book, so I can get more numbers on my side of the Harry vs. Matilda debate.