LOGAN – If for no other reason, the ongoing production of “Matilda” by the Cache Theatre Company must be seen as a noteworthy achievement for mounting a full-scale, main-stage musical filled with talented youngsters.
The last similarly ambitious effort was a local production of “Annie” by Music Theatre West that closed within days of the coronavirus outbreak in March of 2020.
Despite some flaws, the opening night performance of “Matilda” was greeted enthusiastically by a near-capacity crowd of friends and families at the Ellen Eccles Theatre on Friday.
That approval was richly earned by the sincerity of the younger cast members, led by the remarkable Ella Kelstrom in the title role. Most of the adult characterizations were, however, strictly stereotypes and grossly overblown at that.
“Matilda” is based on a 1988 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, the beloved British author of darkly comic stories for children. It’s subversive fun about an exceptional child who rises above family disfunctionality to provoke an elementary school insurrection.
The musical’s inside joke is that its author – a former aristocratic Royal Air Force fighter pilot – was using a child’s point-of-view to lampoon the horrors of the English public school system and the small-mindedness of English anti-intellectual snobbery.
Originally developed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, “Matilda” debuted in the West End theater district of London in 2011 and on Broadway in 2013. The show’s staging and score have earned numerous honors, including five Tony Awards.
Which is not to say that “Matilda” is anything like an ideal vehicle for this CTC amateur production. The musical is gratuitously over-long, some crowd scenes are clumsily staged and few of the ensemble tunes are all that memorable.
On the other hand, “Matilda” has some shining moments.
All of Ms. Kelstrom’s songs about her loneliness are beautifully heartfelt and wistful.
Chrissy Webster is equally sympathetic in her role as Matilda’s confidante Miss Honey and her vocal performances are breathtaking.
CTC veteran Ryan Leonhardt also shares two lovely imaginary duets with Ms. Kelstrom and Ms. Webster.
The play’s only show-stopper, the hilarious Act 2 opening number “Telly,” is delivered with gusto by Chris Metz in the role of Matilda’s father, a sleazy used car salesman.
Finally, Rachel Fillingim performs a graceful aerial ballet in role of the ill-fated Acrobat.
Performances of “Matilda” will continue at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan through Saturday, May 8.