Matilda. How did they do that?!
On Saturday, October 26th, I saw Matilda The Musical at the Shubert Theatre to celebrate my 19th birthday and my unwillingness to grow up. I am known to all my friends as someone who will rock out to “Revolting Children” at a moment’s notice, but I knew it was going to be a whole different story to see the musical numbers live.
My excitement was dulled slightly upon entering the theatre due to one unavoidable detail: the audience was mainly children, and I mean little children. Was it strange that I was one of the only adults at Matilda who was not there to chaperone a kid? Perhaps.
My enthusiasm returned tenfold when I glimpsed the set. Okay, first impressions? It was like the set was converted into one massive, colorful scrabble game. And the stage, a giant playground, complete with swings and scooters - those same scooters that made or broke your popularity in elementary school. I’m right back in grade school, home of the silly games that only made sense to you, the conversations held in secret codes so your parents couldn't hear, and the nasty rumors that looking back are extremely difficult to believe were spread by such young kids.
I was immersed in my childhood. At one point, when the actor playing Matilda’s father asked all the adults in the audience who read to raise their hands, I looked at my neighbors and waited for them to identify themselves. Not because I don't read, but because I forgot I was an adult! It wasn't until I was nudged by my boyfriend that this finally clicked and I (reluctantly) raised my hand along with the other grown-ups.
Theatre, especially with all the benefits of technology, is rife with what we at PXP call moments of Theatre Magic. Theatre magic works in mysterious ways and is responsible (sort of) for making the puppets dance and speak like they've come to life, making people soar onstage, and of course causing cast members to appear and disappear at a moment’s notice, all leaving the audience mystified and wondering “How did they do that?!”
I’ve asked myself this question too many times to count at the theatre, and Matilda was no exception. When the evil Miss Trunchbull grabs a little girl by her pigtails and swings her by her hair before releasing her, sending her flying into sky, we were all on the edge of our seats. Because that wasn't a dummy or a doll, that was an actress, a little kid, and there were no wires or cords strapped to her and she wasn't wearing a harness, at least that we could see. Before we knew it, said little girl was falling from the ceiling, perfectly intact. How was this done? Theatre magic.
And when Miss Trunchbull forces young Bruce to eat a humongous chocolate cake onstage in a matter of minutes, we were all left scratching our heads in puzzlement. Because we all know that the actor isn't really eating an entire cake on stage 8 times a week. And surely, nothing can make a real chocolate cake vanish before our eyes… or can it? It's theatre magic at it again, putting us in that world, right there with the cast, and reminding us that we’re never too old for magic.