‘Stellar’ production of Matilda at Lesher

Special to the Gazette

This past week, the Contra Costa Musical Theater Company (CCMT) presented the five-time Tony award winning musical, “Matilda, The Musical”, based on the 1988 children’s novel of the same name, written by world-renowned Welsh born/British author Roald Dahl. This show was first commissioned and produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in England in 2010, based upon the book by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.

The musical narrative centers upon a precocious five-year-old girl purportedly with the gift of telekinesis (an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to influence a physical system without physical interaction), a voracious reader, with a vivid imagination, clever resourcefulness, and a remarkable ability to overcome her cruel parent’s dismissive and belittling attitude towards her. The local library is her safe haven and educational resource center.

The story is in large part based upon events somewhat similar to those that author Roald Dahl actually experienced in his own life. For example, in 1929, when he was 13 years of age, he attending the Repton School in Derbyshire, England, where he found himself frequently subject to terrible hazing beatings and other very dark experiences. While the experience of young Matilda is very foreboding, the story is poignant, moving, magical and inspiring, a thoroughly delightful experience that I’m sure you will remember fondly as a great theatrical production.

Roald Dahl is regarded as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. In addition, he was named as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 and ranks among the world’s best-selling fiction authors with sales estimated at over $250 million. His books have been published in close to 60 languages. Included in my favorites list is his first children’s novel, The Gremlins, written in 1943 (a copy of which I still have and cherish today), and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This production is absolutely stellar in every respect. The huge cast consists of at least 30 extremely talented and professional level actors, including adults and children. The principal actors include Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s parents, who are played by Michael Doppe and Linda DiVito. Young Matilda (Sophia Gilbert) and her loving teacher, Miss Honey (Josselyn O’Neill Ryder), will steal your hearts. The despicable headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (very nearly evil incarnate), is played absolutely superbly by Mark Farrell.

The orchestra is directed by conductor Eryn Allen, and the director of choreography is Jennifer Perry. I wish that I had room to provide kudos to many more of the actors and the incredible supportive staff that bring us this incredible Walnut Creek based musical theater company (with a 57-year history) to the Hofmann Stage in the Lesher Arts Center located at 1601 Civic Dr. in Walnut Creek, CA.

Matilda, The Musical continues Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, with Sunday performances at 2 PM, now through Sunday April 12th. Tickets range in price between $44 -$59 each with discounts for senior students and groups. They are available at the Lesher Center box office at the above address, online at www.LesherArtsCenter.org or you may call (925) 943-7469 for more information.

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