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The Smell of Rebellion

Celebrating the power of storytelling, imagination, and taking hold of one’s destiny, Matilda: The Musical is overflowing with twisted humor and a giant heart.

Hannah Gray Gordon
April 29, 2017

For most children, summer is about family time with vacations, no school, reconnecting and sometimes, disappearing into a good book. But in Matilda’s world, being saddled with two self-absorbed and neglectful parents can make a summer feel like an eternity.

This Matilda, who lives in a world where children are sometimes referred to as maggots, was created by Roald Dahl (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach) in 1988. As successful as the book was, it was only a matter of time until it saw “new life” in a different medium.

In 2009, the Royal Shakespeare Company opened a musical version of Matilda in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. In 2011, the musical received a West End debut to uniformly positive reviews. By 2013 it had traveled the Atlantic to open at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway with a U.S. national tour following.

In the musical, Matilda is an innocent, curious girl born into a family that neither understands her nor cares to. Treated horribly throughout her first five years, Matilda manages to remain a calm, inquisitive child with a hunger for knowledge and a knack for telekinesis. Her parents send her to boarding school, where she finds herself under the authoritarian hand of Miss Trunchbull, the school headmaster and biggest bully of them all. While there, Matilda further develops her gift and begins to fight back against Trunchbull, defending not only herself, but the other children and their capacity to learn and be allowed to be children.

Directed by Tony Award winner Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage) and written by Tony Award-winning playwright Dennis Kelly, the musical itself has become a record-breaking stage phenomenon with 70 international awards, including four Tony Awards and seven Olivier Awards. The show wouldn’t be the same without the additions of more Tony Award winners, such as Rob Howell in set and costume design and Hugh Vanstone in lighting.

Darcy Stewart, known for her work in the CW’s Reign as well as the musical Legally Blonde, portrays Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s mother. “We learned everything initially in about two weeks,” the Canadian native says. “I started the tour in April 2016 and it’s been a crazy, fun ride.”

One of Darcy Stewart’s favorite numbers is “Loud,” an energetic dance number with bright costumes, exciting choreography, and a dazzling light show.
One of Darcy Stewart’s favorite numbers is “Loud,” an energetic dance number with bright costumes, exciting choreography, and a dazzling light show.

She loves playing Matilda’s mother, because despite the fact that the character is evil and dark, she is part of the emphasis on the terrible things Matilda must overcome to blossom into who she’s meant to be. “And she’s just fun to portray,” Stewart says with a laugh.

One of Stewart’s favorite numbers is “Loud,” an energetic dance number with bright costumes, exciting choreography, and a dazzling light show. “It’s wild and vibrant,” Stewart says. 

She also highlights the children’s dance numbers, which she says are just plain fun to watch. “The costumes are on point, the dance moves are incredible. They’re all over the stage with smiles and it always gets the audience moving too.”

Families can enjoy this all-ages show, although Stewart says that in true Roald Dahl fashion, the story is a bit dark and parents should be aware that very young children might not understand why. However, the story makes a stark contrast between Matilda and the adults who bully her.

“You can tell that she’s good and kind, and that these mean people aren’t doing what is right,” says Stewart. “When children see me outside of the show they recognize me as Mrs. Wormwood and tell me I’m that mean woman. They clearly see the right and wrong of the characters in the show. It’s an effective lesson in morals and being a good person. It makes children want to be magical and realize that anything is possible.”

Every performance is different, making it a unique experience for the audience.

“Something changes every time, from something small to how a line is delivered on up to changes in choreography,” she says. “We really go with the flow. We see what that specific audience really responds to and ramp that up to make it even more fun.”

Stewart says the cast spends every day working on dance numbers and songs to try new ways to deliver the story, always seeking to improve the audience’s experience. “ The dedication everyone has is contagious,” she says. 

Matilda: The Musical
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St. | Tulsa
June 20: 7:30 p.m.
June 21: 7:30 p.m.
June 22: 7:30 p.m.
June 24: 2 p.m., 8 p.m.
June 25: 2 p.m., 7 p.m.