Matilda Jr. Delights Patrons with Magic and Nostalgia at the Taft Theatre

Review by Mary Kate Groh

Roald Dahl’s magical story of Matilda Jr. the Musical is a delight for people of all ages. This timeless
classic is produced by the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, with performances back at the beautiful Taft Theatre. Matilda Jr. is the story of a clever young bookworm, neglected by her boisterous and greedy family, who finds solace in books and learning. She soon discovers that she has magical powers and uses her gift to get revenge on those who wrong her, including her bully of a headmistress, Ms. Trunchbull.

The scenery (and the whole stage production) is impressive and whimsical, just like the storyline of this beloved musical. The lighting of Matilda’s silhouette, incorporated into the set design is eye-catching, along with the rest of the sets such as the Wormwood House, the School, and the Library. Shout out to Scenic Designer and Director Nate Bertone, Lighting Designer Benjamin Gantose, Resident Stage Manager Jadi Davis, and Artistic Director Roderick Justice for creating this beautiful stage design which really set the mood for the entire production!

Featured photo Douglas Fries as Mr. Wormwood, Michelle Wells as Mrs. Wormwood, and Celia D’Ascenzo as Matilda.

The vocals and choreography are top notch, even with the number of school-age children on stage. They all are talented and energetic singers, dancers and actors. Hats off to Choreographer Roderick Justice, and Music Director Jacob Priddy, for putting together this stellar cast. Celia D’Ascenzo, who plays the title role of Matilda, owns the stage. She makes audiences fall in love with her and her powerful voice. Tommi Harsch is a sweet Miss Honey. A special treat is Angela Powell Walker, former Artistic Director of TCT, bringing Mrs. Phelps to life. The cast includes:

  • Rudolpho/Escapologist /Ensemble – Christian Arias
  • Sergei/Ensemble – David Armondo
  • Michael Wormwood – Evan Blust
  • Hortensia – Sophie Caton
  • Amanda – Brinley Culver
  • Bruce – Issiah Current
  • Matilda – Celia D’Ascenzo
  • Erica – Marlo D’Ascenzo
  • Little Kid – Mia D’Ascenzo
  • Alice – Ryleigh Doss
  • Ensemble – Lauren Everett
  • Ensemble – Ian Timothy Forsgren
  • Mr. Wormwood – Douglas Fries
  • Ensemble – Nick Godfrey
  • Miss Honey – Tommi Harsch
  • Ensemble – Kali Marsh
  • Ensemble – Ashley Morton
  • Prudence -Sarina Patel
  • Miss Trunchbull – Spring Starr Pillow
  • Ensemble – Caroline Rakestraw
  • Tommy – Kip Richardson
  • Ensemble – Chelsea Russell
  • Ensemble – Avery Sherman
  • Ensemble – Thomas Les Smith
  • Nigel – Kavan Vadivelu
  • Lavender – Keya Vadivelu
  • Mrs. Phelps – Angela Powell Walker
  • Mrs. Wormwood – Michelle Wells

Jeff Shearers costumes are vibrant with color making each actor pop on stage. My favorite costume has to be the acrobat’s which is dazzling and gorgeous. Miss Trunchbull, played by the brilliant Spring Starr Pillow, looked practically identical to Miss Trunchbull in the original movie (but much more interesting live on stage). The school uniforms, which almost looked too gaudy to be those of students who attend Crunchem Hall Primary School, were not gray and bland, like you’d expect.

TCT’s Matilda Jr playing now through Feb. 14. Ms. Trunchbull played by Spring Starr Pillow. Featured photo Douglas Fries as Mr. Wormwood, Michelle Wells as Mrs. Wormwood, and Celia D’Ascenzo as Matilda.

This is a fun production. From the set design, costumes, choreography, acting, and vocals, everything is fantastic. Running 70 minutes it is recommended for ages 4 and up. The heartwarming story of Matilda Jr is running at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati from February 11-13. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click this link Note: masks are required for everyone 2 and up. For more about their Covid Safety protocols click HERE

A new Calendar for everything onstage from LCT’s member theatres.

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