Matilda The Musical Jr

Date 18th February 2022
Society Hitchin Thespians
Venue Woodside Hall, Hitchin
Type of Production Musical
Director Alison Hudson
Musical Director Claire Bailes
Choreographer Charlotte Platten and Francesca Platten

Report

Author: Vicki Avery

I was very much looking forward to seeing Young Thespian’s performance of Matilda Jr. An extremely popular show, this enthusiastic company of young performers took to the stage on the evening I attended with great excitement singing their opening number “Miracle” with gusto. 

The scenery was simple but effective, with some well-co-ordinated box moving by the cast. However, it would have been more effective if more of the box combinations spelt out actual words encouraging the audience to recognise as many words as they could throughout the storyline. 

Matilda, played by Abbie Herbert, captured the character very well, with a lovely voice. Dialogue was intelligently delivered and musicality good. I particularly enjoyed “Quiet”. 

Miss Trunchbull, played by Erin Dalrymple, had a difficult job on her hands playing this iconic character. At times it was difficult to pick up what she was saying as diction was poor and I was not convinced that her microphone was working properly. Also, a lack of character makeup did not convince us how evil she was really supposed to be. Having said that I did enjoy “The Smell of Rebellion” in Act 2. 

Scarlett Bahnsen who took the role of Miss Honey did well to portray this kind and loving character. Generally, vocals were good. I was disappointed that My House was not included in the Junior Version as I am certain this young actress would have sung that beautifully. 

Mr and Mrs Wormwood, played by Gianni Marcantonio and Bethany Gadd seemed somewhat uncomfortable in their roles on the Friday evening. Whether they had family or friends in the audience I can only guess but they both appeared very self-conscious and not at all at ease. A shame as these are great character roles to be enjoyed. 

 Freya Goodridge as the Wormwood’s monosyllabic son Michael did well, making me smile numerous times. 

Mrs Phelps, played by Lauren Joslin, showed good facial expression when reacting to Matilda’s stories. Well done.

Bruce, played by Chloe Strong, displayed some good character work also but I would have liked to have seen far more chocolate in the cake episode. All over the hands and arms and of course the face. With the cast wearing very little or no makeup at all this would have been easy to rectify. Comic opportunity lost here I’m afraid.

Lighting was appropriate at all times, with no dark areas that the cast could not manage successfully. 

The sound however, I believe incurred a few issues. Microphones did not appear to be managed correctly, with little or no volume or being brought up late. Click tracks were far too loud for the soloists and the underscoring tracks often covered over the dialogue. Plotting sound in an empty hall is ok but only if you take into consideration the difference that will occur once the hall is audience full and the dynamics of the playing area have changed. This was a real shame and I hope it can be rectified.

Generally speaking, dialogue overall was delivered too quickly and needed to slow down. Had this been recognised during rehearsals then the gap between dialogue ending and the underscoring completing would not have been so obvious or awkward for the cast.  

Matilda Jr is a great show to produce and take part in, with lots of memorable characters and songs. The past two years have been some of the most difficult for our young performers with rehearsals being compromised and casts having to change from time to time. The Young Thespians did their best on Friday evening, but I feel that a perceived lack of guidance, direction, and rehearsal time has taken its toll and hopefully next time we shall be back to the high standard of performance we have all come to expect from these young people.

I wish you every success for the future and thank you so much for your generous hospitality. 

Vicki Avery Noda Rep District 9.