Saguaro City Musical Theatre's spirited production plasters smiles on the audience.
Led by a boisterous title role performance from Miriam Howell, the cast breathes a vivacious punch to the 1988 Roald Dahl book, which was adapted for Broadway in 2010.
Mandy Modic's direction and choreography casts a spell worthy of the sprightly character. An improbably talented and synchronized group of students performs meticulous choreography and pitch-perfect song-and-dance numbers. The dedication in rehearsal to reach this point of precision seems incalculable. Credit goes not only to Modic, but to the performers' parents, who rose to the occasion to help deliver Modic's vision.
The adult cast is also superb. Zach Wetzel and Nickole Custodio play Matilda's villainously self-centered and shallow parents, Tyler Wright chews scenery as the imposing Miss Agatha Trunchbull and Lydia Schmidt provides the emotional core as Matilda's sweet teacher, Miss Honey. Their chemistry with their younger counterparts is key to the show's success. As Dahl envisioned, most of the adults treat the children with casual cruelty.
The stagecraft, while workmanlike, has moments of elevated mysticism, including haunting silhouette projections that help illustrate the tragic episodic love story that Matilda recites. I was also floored by a climactic psychokinetic chalkboard inscription, which captured the spirit of Matilda's magic to dramatic effect.
While some of the song-and-dance numbers could have been cut to help maintain momentum, most of them nail their targets with aplomb. In particular, Schmidt's solemn "Pathetic" is a tender cry for help, "When I Grow Up" is a watershed sequence of self-reflection and "The Smell of Rebellion" is a rousing call to action for self-respect.
An adorable and endearing treasure, Saguaro City Musical Theatre's production o f"Matilda the Musical" deserves to be savored and appreciated. Perhaps its most amazing feat of magic was the way it kept my wild 2-year-old girl silent in appreciation throughout its 2-hour runtime.
"Matilda the Musical" plays through Jan. 7 at Berger Performing Arts Center. Buy tickets here.