Five-year old Matilda Wormwood is the kind of daughter every family richly deserves. But not hers, and that is the genius of the clever story of Matilda by playwright Roald Dahl. Dahl’s real magic is the margin of greatness he gives each actor, so they can really shine. Windsor Light Musical Theatre goes into megawatt overdrive with its version of the Dahl play, directed by Connie Farrer, and which opens Friday evening at the Chrysler Theatre at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts.
It is the 70 year-old theatre company’s 140th production, and all the stops have been pulled to produce a night with highly diverse characters performing in a number of arcs, each with their own distinct flavor and complexity. Although some of the most-dastardly characters have considerable baggage, the protagonist, Matilda is a girl of exceptional wholesomeness and intelligence well beyond her years. A role shared by Morgan DeYong and Josephine “Posey” Cormier. Matilda does have one burden, that of continually reminding her own father that she is a girl.
It is a rebuttal she repeats all of her life after her ne’er do well car-dealing father, in his mind in line to be the world’s next great deal maker, complains at her birth about her absence of boy-parts. Dennis Clift in the role of Mr. Wormwood, schemer supreme, commences to calling her by the wrong gender throughout most of the play while sporting a rather green coiffure.
How it became green suggests a little mischievous on Matilda’s part. She also has rather timely and well-practiced psychokinetic powers.
Her mother, so self-indulged in dancing, doesn’t do much with her own daughter. Performed with reckless abandon by Dayna Cornwall, Mrs. Wormwood is highly upset the day she gives birth, a miracle of sorts, because it scuttles her plan to fly off to Paris to dance the night away, in a proper competition of course. Her favourite and possible lothario, or dance partner, Rudolpho, is about all that matters in her life.
There is not a character the audience will not love or will not despise in the whole play but most are just downright lovable. Consider Evangeline Scott as pint-sized Lavender. She jumps at the opportunity to be Matilda’s friend but jaws drop the moment she sings. She has the voice of an Etta James despite her size.
Nigel Hicks’ role is another one filled by a blockbuster actor. Young Christian Brocoy plays him with such innocence. He puts on a performance of a young lad not at all that aware of his surroundings. Or is he aware? Is it Dahl’s cleverness again?
Megan Whalen presents a character, Schoolteacher Miss Honey, with ample agitation and frustration about Matilda’s treatment by the headmistress. She is a modern teacher with drive and heart, attributes squarely at odds with the strict, by the book, headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull. Performing the role is the John Cleese looking Jim Reid. He shows a rather fatuous character with a bit of snicker.
Self-believing to being in the winner’s category where winners only win, he presents as a superior human. Obviously, the character is more of a self-infatuated bully willing to stop at nothing to prove children are less superior. Dahl throws in quite a plot comeuppance on the teacher and headmistress, completely unexpected and very much an unanticipated delight.
And what can be said about the hilarious rotund chocolate cake eating Bruce Bogtrotter? Lukas Lynch takes the role of a young lad with a sweet tooth personal and adds sparkle to the production after he makes the mistake of eating the headmistress’s cake. There is time waiting for him in the “chokery” for that deed.
In an unusual twist, Act II opens with Mr. Wormwood apologizing for giving the impression children should be reading. It is certainly something he does not endorse. To correct the impression reading is good, his own daughter is a reader of considerable accomplishment, he breaks out into a toe-tapping highly memorable tune set to the words, everything I know I learned from the telly, or television, as it is called in these parts.
It is only one song in a night of incomparable music highlights. There is a cornucopia of soul scratching ballads and rousing production numbers involving the full cast and a fourteen-member pit chorus.
The orchestra pit is also filled with eleven talented musicians, under the direction of Nicholas Morvay, handling strings, wind and electronic instruments giving the play a grand motion picture type of soundtrack, which, is very heavy on bass. The bass itself is nothing if not extraordinary. Bassist Ryan Fontaine tells Eyes on Windsor that although his stand-up bass is over a hundred years old, his bows are even older. He has two, in the range of 150 years and both offer their own distinct sound when used.
Choreographer for the play is John Luther. The rest of the cast includes Indigo Pomian, Natalie Introcaso, Bridgid Carlini, Emilie Bisnaire-Jackson, Brooklyn Dobson, Daniela Marier-Perissinotti, Justin Escoto, Mario Muscedere, Kashvi Sharma, Lizz Beith, Sophia Sladic, Maria Ducharme, Caprice Tevelde, Gabrielle Smith, Randee Mayrand, Jaedyn Ellis.
Matilda performances will be held at The Chrysler Theater at The St. Clair Centre For The Arts on Friday, November 15 and Saturday, November 16 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 17 at 2pm. The following week performances will be on Friday, November 22 and Saturday, November 23 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 24 at 2pm.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit https://www.windsorlight.com
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.
Featured Photo by Jen Gurniak
Jen says, “All I want to do is sing show tunes and take photographs.” She has been actively involved in the theatre community since she was 13 years old and photographs local productions for theatre and performance groups. She also photographs portraits, headshots, families, events, and more. Jen Gurniak Photography can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and at JenGurniakPhotography.com