There was once a British man who spun magical tales of abused children rising up to tyrannical adults. A former fighter pilot, Roald Dahl wrote of worlds filled with the macabre, combined with the occasional hints of racism and salaciousness. Orphaned at a young age, he was the person you least expect to be a children’s book author—his reputation wasn’t exactly spotless, as he was widely known to have cheated on his ailing first wife. He was a notorious anti-Semite as well—he once said Hitler has reasons for exterminating millions of Jews during World War II.
In spite of his less than pure morals, Dahl remains one of the world’s most favorite authors. Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s brings Dahl’s magic to life in a delightful staging of Matilda, a musical showcasing some of the leading theater stalwarts in the Philippines.
Based on a novel about a precocious four-year-old girl with telekinetic powers, the Bobby Garcia directed show played to a jampacked crowd of adults and children during a sweltering afternoon at the Meralco Theater.
As someone who has watched several mediocre Australian musicals in Singapore, I can confidently assert that the show is proof positive that Filipino talents are the best in the region.
Long-time theater actor Jamie Wilson was the threatening headmistress Miss Trunchbull, and whose character Dahl based on the punitive teachers he met at boarding school. Watching Wilson was a master class in villainy, and novice television actors should watch him to learn a thing or two.
Worth mentioning too is The Voice Kids alumna Esang De Torres who played the title role, performing in an almost authentic British accent while hitting the high notes that reverberated throughout the entire venue.
Other notables include Joaquin Valdez, who played Matilda’s father (and espoused the value of learning from television in an Elvis Presley-inspired song); and Carla Guevarra-Laforteza, as his ballroom-dancing wife.
Kudos also goes to Faust Peneyra, whose set design, while pared-down compared to overseas productions, perfectly captures Matilda’s intelligence and naughtiness.
Perhaps the show, albeit entertaining, was meant for an older crowd—school aged children were chatting throughout much of the program, bored by the story of a girl who read Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Russian and would probably thumb her nose at the sight of smartphones.
Unnecessary distractions aside, Matilda is a perfect way to transport oneself to the mind of Dahl—a flawed genius who wrote the truth that children will be far more intelligent and pure-hearted than many adults.
This musical is being staged at the Meralco Theater until December 10, 2017.
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