Revolting Children: The Matilda in Manila Review

Matilda in Manila Review (Esang playing as Matilda)
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Anakin: “Mom, there’s a thin line between genius and crazy. I think Matilda is almost bordering crazy.”

Me: “It was so scary I was reminded why we’re homeschooling.”

We were able to catch Esang de Torres as Matilda last December 9 at the Meralco Theater. Esang is a top 4 finalist at The Voice Kids Philippines in 2015. We watched the Matilda Musical courtesy of winning the Promil Matilda Promo. Thank you Promil! You’re the best!

I’m only doing this Matilda in Manila Review today, several days after the play because we’ve been so overwhelmed. My Spotify playlist is still playing the whole Matilda The Musical music list.

Matilda is a play adapted from a Roald Dahl book. If you know Roald Dahl, you know he can be a bit dark and his characters are usually over the top crazy, like Willy Wonka and Ms Trunchbull. I actually thought that A Series of Unfortunate Events was also written by Mr Dahl because of the crazy Count Olaf -so sorry.

I watched the Matilda movie when I was in college. It is a story about an unwanted and neglected child who realized that she doesn’t have to grin and bear it and she can be a little bit naughty. It was so memorable that I know Miss Trunchbull’s line by heart, “I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” It’s fascinating that I remembered this but forgot about all the other lines by Matilda. Lol.

In order to prepare for the play, I made the entire family watch the movie version. Which was a good thing because I forgot most everything except the chokey. I was also able to compare the two and decide which one is a better adaptation.

It was a warm and cheery night. Made cheerier by the facade of Meralco Theater who happens to have an ongoing Christmas Village Light Show. There we’re a ton of families enjoying the free show. This is one of the free Christmas Attraction in Manila this 2017 so drop by if you want!

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Anyway, as we were walking – we only live in Kapitolyo and we walked to Meralco Theater from Capitol Commons, we were talking about theater etiquette and whether dressing appropriately (in formal attire) is still a rule. I checked out the audience and though it doesn’t seem to be the rule, majority came in good “Sunday clothes”. I didn’t see anyone in tanks or shorts.

The foyer had food and stalls for Matilda Merch. They also had selfie places for kids (and kids at heart). We we’re too excited to explore and we went inside as soon as we arrived.

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I dont really know what to expect. Truthfully, this is only my second musical at the theater, the first being the life story of a politician (I dont remember the name) where a dear friend of mine acted.

I was beyond excited when I heard the first “My Mom Says Im a Miracle”.  The theater was alive and we were captivated.  It was notable that most of the songs seems to have double meanings, and a wry, almost cynical humor. The doctor who was there for Matilda’s birth almost stole the show for me. I checked all the other performances available on Youtube and his is the best I saw. I cant believe that this was the same guy on The Voice several years ago. :P

The Matilda theater version was way darker than the movie version. I have not read the book, and I don’t know if the part where Matilda is telling the Escapologist Story to the librarian (Ms. Phelps, performed by Emeline Celis-Guinid) is there, but it was not in the movie version of Matilda. I think Matilda started it as her story and it was only later that she realized that it’s Ms Honey’s story. This part reminded me of the 3 Brothers Story in Harry Potter. It was fantastically written and I was glad that they included it in the play.

Esang inserts a different feeling to the role, consciously or unconsciously. She has this sad eyes and from across the hall, sometimes what should come off as naughtiness almost borders anger. Her soliloquy’s (Quiet) are awesomely dramatic. Maybe a touch of the Filipino soap opera? I was thinking if Matilda was a bit amoral. She doesn’t think twice about her “naughty” revenge on both her parents or Ms Trunchbull.

It will be a bit weird to say that Matilda’s parents were lovable but they are so out of this world ignorant and clueless that you cant help but sympathize with the middle class pretensions. Hence the song “Telly” and “Loud” was really an accusation against our education system and absentee parenting. Mr Wormwood, a car salesman/ conman is so hung up on money and providing for his wifes “interests”. Mrs Wormwood whos main interest is standing out from the crowd and looking successful. Both neglected their kids, not only Matilda but also her brother who was lost to the telly. Joaquin Valdes as Mr. Wormwood and Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Mrs. Wormwood were both funny and revolting. I loved  their slapstick performance both.

Cris Villonco as Ms Honey sang clearly and was endearing as the good girl who has issues and knows that she’s pathetic. But the one who really stole the show was Ms Trunchbull. Jamie Wilson who played the part was an absolute gem. I can’t imagine the huge preparation he had to do to get the part “just right”. From the tips of his hair to the flick of a finger, he was Ms Trunchbull through and through.

There’s was a moment there when I thought that Ms Trunchbull might be redeemable. I was thinking, maybe she didn’t really murder Ms Honeys father, but maybe that was the mommy in me speaking. I forgot for a moment that this is a Roald Dahl book, ha! Alas, she’s a baddie thru and thru.

The play would not have been as awesome if Matilda’s gang wasn’t there. I relished all the parts where the whole class is singing.  From her first day of school, with the repeat of the intro song “My mother says Im a miracle, it was perfect. I really liked how the group sang without overpowering each other. Theatrically, my favorite song from Matilda is the School Song. The big boys and girls of school alternating with the singing is seamless. The gate to the school looked like they were entering prison instead of school!

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Everyone was asking about Lea Salongas daughter, Nicole. She played Alice. Lea must have been so proud! The entire cast did really well. Shout out to Josh Nubla as Bruce. I was was really waiting for that moment of We Are the Revolting Children and it was every bit as I imagined it. You made my night young man!

I’m just going to insert it here but I feel horribly bad for Matilda’s brother who had no lines except “telly”. And Rudolpho, the dancing instructor too!

The set design was terrific. And I loved how even in the dark, behind the scenes, they were moving tables and sofas so artistically. There were ohhs and ahhs as the carousel with horses appeared. The tech for the writing blackboard did not leave me unbelieving. Choreography and set design was superb.

So! I’m sorry If I was full of superlatives for this Matilda Review. There were parts that wasn’t as good, and there might have been some technical glitch that I did not notice. Sometimes I felt that the stage was too dark. Or the sounds and the orchestra overpowering the little children’s voices, but overall I left the theater tingling all over. Thanks and congratulations to the director Bobby Garcia! It was a standing ovation!

The entire Matilda in Manila cast made me teary eyed and I want so much to have this play shown everywhere.  I want kids to watch it, I want mommies to watch it. I want educators to watch it. Hopefully, next time, they raffle some tickets to public schools. It really speaks powerfully against bullying, and standing up to it.

And reading. Yes. In the time of Youtube and Internet, the play shows how reading can really help you realize your potential. Beyond Matilda’s telekinesis powers, it was really reading all those books that saved her. She might be a little condescending with Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, and Jack and Jill but she did learn their lessons well -that sometimes if it’s not right, you have to put it right yourself. And being a bit naughty helps too!

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