Matilda the Musical by Marple-Newtown High School in Newtown Square, PA
March 16, 2022
Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School
Welcome to Matilda’s 5th Birthday Party, where Marple Newtown High School brought childhood magic and delight to the stage with Matilda the Musical!
Since its debut in 2010, Matilda the Musical, based on the well-known novel by Roald Dahl, has become a smashing success on the stage. Following the story of an immensely intelligent young girl, Matilda Wormwood, the musical charts her experience overcoming adversity at home, due to her irresponsible parents, and at school, due to her cruel headmistress. Sprinkled with a bit of magic and telekinesis, Matilda’s wit, strength, and courage propel her and her fellow students to do what’s right and be a bit rebellious.
With many of the teenage actors portraying children and the technical challenge of telekinesis, producing Matilda the Musical is no easy feat for any high school theatre company. Nonetheless, the Marple Newtown School District tackled the beloved childhood classic with ease and efficiency. With a majority of student-led technical departments, all students involved clearly invested many hours of dedication into the production.
Lucy DeFrancesco as Matilda delivered a heartwarming and touching performance. Her smooth and enchanting vocals were integral to the character’s development, and meanwhile, her genuine acting techniques made her portrayal feel childlike and adventurous. DeFrancesco’s rebellious performance provided the perfect foil to Peter Pilko’s Trunchbull. Together, the two led the enormous cast admirably.
Arianna Berryman and JJ Trainor, notable standouts among the supporting characters, as Mrs. Wormwood and Bruce, respectively, added lively energy to the production. Berryman’s astonishing stage presence as well as her strong dancing abilities shone during her performance of “Loud.” Overcoming technical difficulties with microphones, Berryman stayed consistent and dedicated to the extravagant persona. Trainor, captivating the audience throughout the course of the musical, impressed audiences with a soaring voice during “Revolting Children.” While the energy of the ensemble dipped at times, Trainor always delivered a show-stopping performance.
The sets–designed by Carly Grimm, Emma Geddes, Nyck Kuranaruk, and Michael McClean–were thoughtfully executed. Sticking with the theme of childhood and literature, the design team put careful attention into small details throughout the various platforms and bookshelves. Mia Nye, the stage manager, deserves recognition for keeping copious notes and ensuring all 92 cast members were accounted for. Additionally, Lucy DeFrancesco deserves tremendous applause for, in addition to leading the cast, her costume design.
Matilda the Musical was not only a miraculous return to live musical theatre for Marple Newtown High School but also a heartwarming and magical return to childhood fantasy.
Review submitted by Kaitlyn Kaulback of Archmere Academy
M – a – t – i – l – d – a. What does that spell? You guessed it! It’s Matilda the Musical, presented by Marple Newtown School District.
Inspired by a late 80’s children’s novel and premiering on the West End in 2011, Matilda the Musical follows child prodigy Matilda Wormwood as she enrolls in school when soft-natured teacher Miss Honey takes notice to her extraordinary academic abilities. Along the way, she endures her ignorant parents, strict disciplinarian Ms. Trunchbull, and her newfound power of telekinesis.
Lucy DeFrancesco’s portrayal of Matilda perfectly embodied the prodigy’s youthful, yet articulate disposition. With an extensive vocal range, DeFrancesco utilized both her lighter head voice and resonant belt in a multitude of songs such as “Naughty” and “Quiet”. As an excellent storyteller, she kept the audience engaged throughout her monologues by adding layers of emotion, building up the tension. Moreover, Arianna Berryman breathed life into the extravagant Mrs. Wormwood with excellent comic timing and physicality. Berryman’s bright, melodious vocals and vibrant energy in “Loud” showcased her incredible breath support and dance technique.
While the other characters possessed limited stage time, many supporting/featured actors took advantage of their little moments to make a lasting impact. From JJ Trainor’s (Bruce) stellar vocals in “Revolting Children” to Annastasia Cavanaugh’s (Lavender) commitment to physicality, this versatile supporting cast did not disappoint. Matilda’s Classmates, a subset to the whole ensemble, served as a dynamic and vital component that tied the whole production together. While the energy of the entire student ensemble remained somewhat dull in the first act, the cast bounced back with higher, more engaging energy for the second act.
Although Matilda’s telekinesis provides quite the technical challenge, Marple Newtown overcame these difficulties with impressive special effects, such as the coffee mug and chalk that seamlessly moved by themselves. Furthermore, the lighting, led by Tim Fitzpatrick, amplified the mood of each scene with many complicated cues spread throughout the production. Unfortunately, some sound issues arose during act one. Numerous mics frequently popped and cut out unexpectedly, missing key lines. Nevertheless, the microphone balance greatly improved in act two.
Additionally, stage manager Mia Nye demonstrated organization and diligence with detailed, color-coded script notes marking light, prop, and blocking cues. Thanks to Nye’s leadership, the stage crew ensured that all of the scene changes proceeded quickly and smoothly, displaying the team’s attentiveness.
Not only did the production showcase remarkable talent both on and off the stage, Marple Newtown’s Matilda the Musical reminds us that being a little naughty can bring out the miracle in all of us.