Cappies Review of Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical at Mount Vernon High School

By Communication and Community Relations
May 02, 2022

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Many FCPS high schools participate in the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theater, otherwise known as the Cappies. The Cappies is a program through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local newspapers. 

Editor's Note: This review of Mount Vernon High School's production of Matilda the Musical, was written by Elliot Baird of Lake Braddock Secondary School.

In a world where children are considered "maggots" and reading is for "idiots," how is a precocious little girl to get by? To answer that question, catch Mount Vernon High School Theatre Arts' production of Matilda the Musical.

The story of Matilda originates from Roald Dahl's 1988 children's novel, also adapted into a film in 1996 by director Danny DeVito. The musical, with book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, was first produced in 2009 by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It transferred to the West End in 2011, earning seven Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, and then to Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in 2013, garnering five Tony Awards. It follows the story of the child-genius Matilda as she navigates the perilous worlds of both her abusive home and school.

This production was brought to life by the collaboration between the ensemble and choreographer Julia von Fahnestock. Von Fahnestock's powerful, intricate choreography created stunning texture and layers on stage, and it was executed with strength and precision by the cast. It filled the show with an electric energy that never dipped over its two and a half hours.

Jamaya Edwards' performance as Matilda brought sensitivity and groundedness to the character, with a strong stage presence not undercutting the character's undoubted sense of childishness. Yara Ammar's Miss Honey truly became the centerpiece of the show, with a delicate vibrato and heart-wrenching authenticity. Bridget Snyder as Miss Trunchbull found true fearsomeness, not in the traditional jokey faux masculinity, but instead by her own raw power of performance. Other standouts included Julia von Fahnestock's over the top comedy and remarkable dance skills as Mrs. Wormwood, Kailah Augustine's peppy sense of fun as Lavender, and Keira Wankowski's raw willingness to get messy as Bruce.

Costumes by Kailah Augustine, Emily Grinstead, Grace McCain, and Olivia Schmechel created the sense of heightened darkness that inhabits this production.  Their thoughtful choice of colors greatly informed the characters, such as the pinks and yellows of the sweet Miss Honey, the dismal grays of the school children trapped in Miss Trunchbull's school, and the neons of Matilda's ludicrous family.  This effect was only furthered by lighting crew heads Nicks Jimenez, Christine Johnson, Caden Mulvey, and Elizabeth Snyder. Their uses of dramatic spotlighting and blending washes of color immediately transported the production to Matilda's more magical world.

Props by Ervin Arquiza, Eva Cate Greek, Jaden Harris, and Aubrey Kocen were playful, beautiful, and most importantly, functional. They facilitated impressive special effects like the disappearance of a chocolate cake and a drinking glass that could move by itself.

Mount Vernon Theatre Arts' cast and crew has created a spirited, energetic production, perfect for anyone who never quite felt like a prince or a princess in childhood.