Lyric Theater makes delightful return to Civic Center with ‘Matilda’

As deliciously subversive and popular as a stolen chocolate cake, the Lyric Theater of Oklahoma makes a joyous return to its summer home with its long-awaited staging of the musical “Matilda.”

Newly named the “Official State Theater of Oklahoma,” Lyric kicks off its three-show season “Summer at the Civic Center” with Oklahoma City’s professional premiere of the family hit, with performances continuing through the 26 June.

Directed by Ashley Wells, the show’s onstage timing was impeccable on opening night June 21, but it was interesting for a number of offstage reasons.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “Matilda” marks Lyric’s first show to perform at Civic Center Music Hall — his longtime summer venue — since performing the musical “Titanic” in July 2019. Still, the nonprofit theater had to scramble its cast list 24 hours before opening night due to COVID cases among the cast Fortunately, the show’s stunt doubles and swingers performed with aplomb , ensuring that the debut of “Matilda” was as magical as expected.

Additionally, Lyric performs the title – which was originally slated to open the OKC Theater’s summer 2020 season – at a time of renewed interest: Netflix last week released the first trailer for its upcoming film adaptation of “Matilda the Musical ‘, and Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are as compelling as this 85-second preview promises.

From left, Elaina Dobey portrays Matilda, Joe Caskey as an escapologist, and Abbie Ruff as an acrobat in the Lyric Theater of Oklahoma's 2022 production of

The Tony-winning title adapts Roald Dahl’s beloved book

Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel “Matilda” had already been turned into a popular 1996 film starring Mara Wilson, Rhea Perlman and actor-director Danny DeVito by then-writer Dennis Kelly adapted the story timeless for the stage.

Under the direction of Matthew Warchus, ‘Matilda the Musical’ won seven 2012 Olivier Awards – including Best New Musical – for its production in London’s West End, as well as four 2013 Tony Awards after its Broadway debut.

The musical’s U.S. tour skipped OKC, making Lyric the first professional production to hit town — and a must-see show for local musical theater fans, Dahl enthusiasts, and families with A-level students. intermediate, tweens and even teenagers.

Olivia Yokers stars as Miss Honey, left, and Maggie Spicer Brown as Mrs. Wormwood in the Lyric Theater of Oklahoma's 2022 production of

What can people expect from the musical “Matilda?”

Most parents think their children are special, but Matilda Wormwood – played on opening night by the talented Cassie Magrath, who shares the lead role with Elaina Dobey – is a true genius with a kind heart, natural skills in leadership and a keen sense of justice.

Unfortunately, Matilda’s family does not appreciate her remarkable gifts. instead, they treat her with cruel disdain. Flighty Mrs. Wormwood (the hilarious Maggie Spicer Brown) is a self-absorbed amateur ballroom dancer who only cares about her flamboyant dance partner Rudolpho (the suitably flexible and over-the-top Sheridan McMichael).

Mr. Wormwood (played on opening night by the exceptional Logan Corley) is a scheming, lying, and proudly greasy-haired used-car salesman who slyly calls Matilda “boy.” Matilda’s only sibling, Michael (swinger Christian Tinajero stepped into the regular role of Corley for the June 21 show), is a monosyllabic slug of a teenager.

The girl finds kindness only in her daily jaunts to the local library, where compassionate librarian Mrs. Phelps (the heartwarming winner Cristela Carrizales) is an avid fan of the precocious child’s stories, especially her gripping yarn about a pair of unhappy husband- circus performers and wife (Joe Caskey and Emma O’Connor).

Matilda can’t wait to start school and escape her toxic family, but her hopes take a hit when she starts at Crunchem Hall, which is run by the obnoxious headmistress Trunchbull (the must-see lyricist Matthew Alvin Brown, perpetuating the stage tradition of a man playing the part), a former Olympian and bloviator bully who literally dumps children and subjects them to handmade torture devices like the “Chokey”.

But the genius girl finds solace and encouragement in the classroom, thanks to her caring teacher, Miss Honey (Olivia Yokers), who is determined to give Matilda a chance to reach her potential despite Trunchbull’s toxic policies. .

Olivia Yokers stars as Miss Honey with Elaina Dobey as Matilda in the Lyric Theater of Oklahoma's 2022 production of

Lyric’s ‘Matilda’ Cast Excels In Both Singing And Dancing

With her incredible voice and soothing stage presence, Yokers helps anchor the show, even as she’s surrounded by an array of outlandish characters. Her chemistry with Cassie’s Matilda gives the boisterous song-and-dance show its emotional center.

Matthew Alvin Brown and Maggie Spicer Brown both play their outrageous roles to the hilt, hitting all the big notes while laughing the most out with every line and drop.

Replacing ailing Andi Dema at the last minute, Corley was particularly impressive on opening night as Mr. Wormwood, who opens the second act with one of the musical’s most engaging numbers, “Telly.” .

But the show’s child stars and young ensemble refused to be overshadowed by their adult counterparts. They brought boundless energy and vocal prowess to numbers like the catchy “School Song” and the show’s terrific signature track “Revolting Children,” while executing Amy Reynolds Reed’s dynamic choreography with precision.

Shawntel Black revels as Matilda’s bubbly best friend Lavender, while Miller Dick shows some serious star power as classmate Bruce, who becomes a favorite target of Trunchbull after he steals a slice of his chocolate cake. personal.

The opening night performance suffered from a few vexing sound issues, including particularly inappropriate mic noise. But the team behind the scenes – from prop designer Courtney Strong and costume designer Jeffrey Meek to hairstylist Joanne Weaver and lighting designer Helena Kuukka – are pulling off some great feats for Lyric’s long-awaited return to the Civic. Center.

Bruce makes a giant cake disappear in minutes, Trunchbull hoists a girl up by her pigtails and throws her into the theater, and Matilda uses her emerging telekinetic powers to conjure up an ominous chalk message on a blackboard — and it’s all convincing and entertaining thanks to the ingenuity of the designers and the crew.

And coupled with the skills of the cast, Lyric’s long-delayed production of the musical “Matilda” offers plenty of reason to stomp and belly-laugh to return to acting.

‘MATILDA’ OF THE LYRIC THEATER

When: Until June 26.

Where: Civic Center Music Room, 201 N Walker.

Tickets: https://lyrictheatreokc.com/shows/matilda.

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