On Wednesday, I came to Toronto to see Matilda: The Musical. Weeks earlier, when I started volunteering in the Grade 6 class at South Dorchester School near Belmont, Tiffany asked me to read a chapter from the novel the kids were studying – Matilda. Never heard of it. But I like reading aloud, so off I went into the world of a five-year-old child, her lovely teacher Miss Honey, her wretched parents the Wormwoods (who didn’t give a whit about her), and the ominous Miss Trunchbull, a thoroughly evil principal.
I really got into the various voices. One day, when the Trunchbull told a kid to “Shut up!”, I really yelled it. Oops. Not a few children leaned back in their chairs.
I went to Toronto a few weeks ago, was walking along Bloor St., and glanced up at a banner hanging from a lamppost. “Matilda: The Musical” it announced. Minutes later, with the wonders of technology, I had myself a ticket.
The kids at South Dorchester knew I was taking in the drama, the singing and the dancing this week. Tiffany asked me to send a photo once I had arrived at the theatre. “Sure,” I replied, not totally sure how to do that on my phone. But Tiffany coached me and I left town with marginal confidence.
The performance was to start at 1:30. I arrived around 1:00 and snapped a pic of folks lined up under the marquee. Eager faces. As I stood there I realized that the Ed Mirvish Theatre was formerly called the Pantages, where many years ago Jody surprised me with tickets to Phantom of the Opera. My dear wife. I remember the grand staircase (similar to the Titanic’s) and being ushered down, down until we were seated only six rows from the stage.
I took two more photos before the show, both in the spectacular lobby. One was a selfie, showing a beaming face with a “Matilda” sign in the wee background. Now for some words and my text would float over the miles to the Grade 6’s.
Hi Tiffany and all you kids,
Would you believe that Miss Trunchbull roared up to me in the lobby and screamed “You filthy little maggot!”? Gosh, and she hardly knows me.
Tiffany texted back, saying that the kids had questions about the Trunchbull and that they liked the photos. Cool.
The musical got going and we saw Mr. Wormwood as an immoral used car salesman, skilled in turning back odometers, and the Missus as a TV addict who lusted for her Spanish dance instructor. Baaad people. And dear Matilda was just a book-loving “thing” who wouldn’t go along with proper TV gazing values.
Then there was school. Miss Honey was a lovely human being with a glorious voice. Miss Trunchbull was almost as wide as she was tall and spewed venom wherever she went. (It turns out the actor was male! Didn’t matter. He did a great job of bringing forth mean.)
One of the best scenes saw the Trunchbull grab a girl by the pigtails and swing her horizontal, just like in the book. Actor-wise, it looked like the young one was wearing a neck brace that the old one could grab onto.
Matilda wowed the class with impossible math skills. MIss Trunchbull led a gymnastics class with yells punctuating the jumps and rolls. At one point, a small trampoline sat beside a padded “horse”. The weighty principal lined herself up, lurched towards the trampoline, bounced high, flipped in the air and landed with grace on the padded surface. Awesome!
Matilda started tipping over water glasses with her mind. Then she caused writing to appear on the blackboard, words that suggested Miss Trunchbull had killed her brother (and Miss Honey’s father) in order to get his money. Matilda shone onstage, especially during tender scenes with Miss Honey. Such joy and such despair peppered throughout the musical.
At intermission, Mr. Wormwood strolled onto the stage. I texted the South Dorchesterites:
Mr. Wormwood just came onstage at intermission and told the kids in the audience … “Don’t try this at home.” He meant reading books! “They make you ugly and give you head lice.”
Tiffany replied: “They love that!” Thanks, kids.
At the end, we favored the young actress playing Matilda with a standing O. It was richly deserved. I walked out of the Ed Mirvish/Pantages with a light heart. Waydago, Matilda. The Trunchbull had no chance against you! And I hoped the children back in Belmont were smiling.