You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

‘Matilda’ musical heads to Fox Theatre with edginess of original book


The children are revolting.

Or so a song tells us in the hit musical “Matilda,” which makes a stop at the Fox Theatre April 18-23. The Tony-winning show, which is based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel about a precocious little girl who leads a rebellion against her bullying school principal, doesn’t shy away from Dahl’s wicked sense of humor and subversive edge. In Dahl’s world, children and adults alike are often revolting, in both senses of the word, and the show’s creators and performers say they sought to capture the humorously naughty spirit of Dahl’s work in the musical.

Developing a look and demeanor for the book’s memorably nasty villain, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, was therefore central to the show. “She’s kind of explosive when she’s on stage,” says actor Dan Chameroy, who plays the brutish headmistress. “She’s a bundle of nerves and energy. She’s jumping or leaping or throwing people around. Any actor who takes on the role of Trunchbull has to be in good physical condition.”

Chameroy says the character and the musical very much honor the spirit of the original book rather than the much lighter 1996 Hollywood film. “It’s a family show without a doubt,” he says. “But the musical honors very much what the book is. There’s a darkness to his characters and stories. It’s not fluffy. It’s like ‘Harry Potter.’ It lives in a world where there’s an edge to it.”

As in the book, everything about the dreaded Miss Trunchbull is extreme. Coming up with an appearance to match Dahl’s character was an interesting task, says set and costume designer Rob Howell.

“I spent quite a lot of time with the Roald Dahl Estate, researching and digging around,” he says. “Roald Dahl describes Miss Trunchbull’s clothes in somewhat more detail than he describes everybody else’s look. … Somebody at the estate said to me, ‘Well, he was very good friends with this horticulturalist called Beatrix Havergal.’ They dug out a picture, and sure enough, there she is wearing this weird-looking smock. She has these sort of coarsely knitted knee socks and brogues. It was absolutely clear to me that’s who Roald Dahl had in mind when he was thinking about what Trunchbull would look like. In terms of primary reference, that was gold dust for me.”

For the set, coming up with a totally new look that responded to Dahl’s original world, rather than simply imitating the famous drawings of the author’s frequent collaborator, illustrator Quentin Blake, was key, Howell says.

“Everybody knows the visual world Quentin Blake has come up with repeatedly and brilliantly for Roald’s work, but the process for us wasn’t to stand up Quentin Blake’s drawings,” he says. “We do different jobs. If you look at the show in real detail, there’s nothing there that is Quentin at all. It’s because I was responding to the book that Roald Dahl had written, just as Quentin Blake had done. As a group and creative team, that’s how we approached it.”

The show originated in Dahl’s native England, and it retains much of its English character, style and humor. The show had its first production at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and throughout the subsequent productions, many of the adult members of the cast and crew (and some of the children) have a strong background in classical theater.

“The more diversity you can have in your career, it always feeds into the next job,” says Chameroy. “For me, Shakespeare is one of the greats. The fact that words drive your performance helps with anything you do. … What I like about the play is that it honors ‘Matilda’ as literature. It’s not a dumbed-down version of the book.”

“What we grow up with at school and what we’re lucky to be surrounded by is trust in the spoken word,” agrees Howell, who has designed often for productions of Shakespeare’s works. “You start to understand you don’t need to build a lot on stage because Shakespeare has done a lot of the work for you with the language. If you trust the words and the skill of the writer, your audience will want to play the game of filling in the gaps. It’s an incredibly valuable lesson because it means you don’t have to re-create everything on stage because the words are in the air, doing a lot of the work for you.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

‘The Circle’ a tale of technology run amok
‘The Circle’ a tale of technology run amok

“The Circle,” based on Dave Eggers novel, is as chilling as the most frightening horror movie. Yet the world it depicts is practically our world, just a tiny leap into the near future. Directed by James Ponsoldt and adapted by Ponsoldt and Eggers, the movie tells the story of a young woman who goes to work at The Circle, a...
How terminally ill man handles his end in ‘Truman’
How terminally ill man handles his end in ‘Truman’

It sounds paradoxical but, if done right, films about a life ending can be the most life-affirming films you’ll see. “Truman,” a great success in its native Spain, is definitely done right. Essentially a two-hander about a terminally ill man and his lifelong best friend, “Truman” swept the 2016 Goyas, Spain’s equivalent...
Director Terence Davies shares Emily Dickinson’s ‘Quiet Passion’
Director Terence Davies shares Emily Dickinson’s ‘Quiet Passion’

British director Terence Davies is hardly the most prolific filmmaker in the business. His career spans almost 30 years, during which time he has made only seven feature films. From the beginning, he garnered considerable critical attention for his stylized (and autobiographical) family dramas “Distant Voices, Still Lives” (1988) and &ldquo...
Jeff Goldblum reprising original role as brash mathematician in ‘Jurassic World 2’
Jeff Goldblum reprising original role as brash mathematician in ‘Jurassic World 2’

  A familiar face is returning for the latest installment in the “Jurassic Park” franchise. Actor Jeff Goldblum, played the brash mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm in 1993’s “Jurassic Park” and its sequel in 1997 “The Lost World,” and has now has signed on for “Jurassic World 2,” according to the ...
VIDEO: Florida teen’s fall down steps before prom goes viral
VIDEO: Florida teen’s fall down steps before prom goes viral

A Wellington teen’s stumble down the stairs before going to his high school prom with his girlfriend has gone viral with 11 million people seeing the tweet and national media picking up the story. Austin Cooper, 18, was walking down the stairs with Jordyn McManus, 16, before going to her Dreyfoos School of the Arts prom Saturday night when one...
More Stories