a year of matilda, part 1 - the original four matildas
obviously, if i’m going to have to do this, i’m going to have to start with the most important part of the show - the adorable, supremely talented matildas.
most of the girls i saw on more than one occasion had at least one off day, and that’s to be expected with any performer, but especially performers who are young, inexperienced and only doing two shows a week. i’ve made it clear that i have high expectations for all broadway performers, including children, but while there are matildas i liked and matildas i didn’t, all of them are clearly exceptionally talented girls, and i wish all eight of them the best of things to come.
and if there are fewer things about a particular girl, it doesn’t mean i liked them less; more likely it means i saw them the fewest times and had the least chance to pick out specific things i really loved.
i’ll go in the order that i saw them, because i have no better ideas.
best sophia moments:
- the one i always mention; the first time i saw the show, the bedroom set broke while it was meant to pull back. it was an incredibly loud crack and scared the bejeezus out of the audience; i can’t imagine how scary it was for a performer inches away from it! but my god, she didn’t bat an eye. she just kept going with the song until she was told to clear the stage, then started again with absolutely no hesitation. if she was rattled at all, you couldn’t tell. nine years old! so much poise and confidence.
- her faces during naughty were always hilarious. her matilda wasn’t sassy overall, but in that song, you could see the charming little girl behind the put-on facade.
- you would swear quiet was written for this girl to sing. every single time, she hit each note flawlessly and beautifully. at one show, the annoying phone-using woman next to me nudged her companion and whispered “she’s INCREDIBLE!” and i had to forgive her for being so darned annoying.
- “the was badgers. it was a programme about badgers." god her delivery of that line had me on the floor every time.
- her stoicism in the role was really effective. her face was often a mask, but her eyes showed everything. you knew this was a little girl who was going to be just fine dealing with her horrible family, but it broke your heart all the same.
- when miss honey says "i’m not strong like you, matilda,” sophia is the matilda where that line felt the most natural, because sophia’s matilda wasn’t emotionally dependent on miss honey - in fact, she seemed to have shut off her emotions entirely, which made the emotional moments she did have very powerful. for example, when she said “he calls me a liar, and a cheat, and a nasty little creep,” she looked ready to cry, and the fact that she’d been so stoic up until that point made it even sadder.
- she seemed to feel so sorry for miss honey during my house. it seemed more like pity than sympathy, in a weird way, like matilda felt bad for her but at the same time was kind of thinking “but you’re a grown-up; you don’t have to take this! what’s with you??" sophia’s matilda was completely self-sufficient in every way, especially emotionally, and she seemed confused about why miss honey kept putting up with abuse and indignity AND let herself be hurt by it.
- of all 8 girls, sophia is the one who always, always got a huge response from the audience, even moreso than ripley. they just loved her. i still smile thinking about the older gentlemen i overheard while i was leaving the theatre loudly declaring "that little girl is going to be in movies and on television!"
best milly moments:
- not really a moment per se, but i can’t NOT mention this kid’s voice. SO huge and powerful, with remarkable control. and her accent always sounded terrific. I can’t recall ever hearing it wobble in the slightest.
- her "i know! i know what you can do! you can pretend you’re an elf!” was so. damn. funny. she sounded like she was really enjoying screwing with her father.
- of all the matildas, milly seemed the most vulnerable to me, and it was incredibly sad. she seemed so hopeful that her family would come around, and every time they failed her she’d wilt a little more. she also seemed the most convincing as a little girl of only five of the original girls, despite being quite tall.
- her delivery of the escapologist’s lines in her stories were so convincing somehow. she really sounded like a grown man; not so much in sound (i mean, she still is a little girl) but in the way she said the lines.
- her naughty reprise was heartbreaking. though she wasn’t my favorite matilda, she’s the one who made me the saddest. i spent the entire show wanting to run onstage, punch her parents in the face and take her home with me.
- her quiet on the obc recording is one of the most beautiful things i’ve ever heard. initially i was disappointed sophia hadn’t recorded it. but it was just stunning, so emotionally raw and pure, and perfectly sung. i get tears in my eyes every time i listen to it.
unfortunately, i only saw milly once, and that was over a year ago from a pretty bad seat, so my memories of her aren’t very strong. but she’s a remarkable girl and i’m so happy to see her continued success.
best oona moments:
- it’s been said a million times, but oona’s facial expressions were brilliant. she has such an animated face, and she could make you laugh or cry in an instant. and she was always in the moment, reacting to every little thing going on around her. she WAS matilda from beginning to end.
- her naughty was so joyful and entertaining, i just grinned from start to finish. especially her face during the last part when she was jumping on the bed with a huge ear-to-ear grin.
- she started the show off sassy and bright-eyed, but she slowly got gloomier and gloomier after her father ripped up her book until she was nearly catatonic by i’m here. it was genuinely harrowing, and made her journey to miss honey all that much sweeter in the end. and i thought it displayed a really thoughtful approach to the role and showed that she was really thinking about it and truly becoming matilda.
- likewise, her lies to mrs. phelps started off coming easily to her, but as it went on, she got more and more tense and nervous and awkward and until her body was completely rigid with the delivery of “you’re like winning the lottery."
- her somber delivery of the third story was probably the saddest matilda moment in any of the shows i’ve seen.
- the anxiety and rage-fueled first part of quiet gave me goosebumps. that kid is intense.
- she and lauren ward worked SO well together. you bought them as completely totally in love with each other. (not in a romantic way, obvi, but as mother and daughter.) and oona looked so disappointed in her when miss honey refused to go to the police.
- she looked so proud of miss honey when she held her hand out to her and escorted her offstage, like she was thinking "finally! you did it!"
oona is the other matilda i saw only once, and i’m so glad we have a video to remember her by. there was something incredibly special about oona, and she’s always the matilda i find myself wishing i had seen just once more.
best bailey moments:
bailey bailey bailey, this girl is flawless; picking just a few things is going to be hard! but i’ll try.
- bailey has a phenomenal grasp of subtlety in acting. both times i saw her, her emotions were very realistically layered - you could see the entire spectrum of what she was feeling at any given time. she seems to have an instinct for when to play something big, when to keep things quiet, and her comedic timing was always impeccable. of the original four i’d say she seemed the most polished and professional, but not to the point of being off-putting; her matilda was still a very real little girl.
- when she sang "i just wish they’d stop” she was sobbing while she was singing. i have absolutely no idea how she managed to do that without messing up her breathing, but it was completely heartbreaking. i had tears in my eyes through the whole song.
- she was SO scared of her father, gulping and gasping and cowering from him; yet she had NO fear of the trunchbull. she just looked at him with the most intense loathing i’ve ever seen; it was almost a little scary seeing it coming from a little girl.
- her relationship with miss honey was SO sweet and she worked brilliantly with jill paice. while she didn’t give a crap about miss trunchbull, she seemed terrified of being rejected by miss honey. when she was blamed for the cake incident, she looked completely panicked, and instead of looking at miss trunchbull, she looked at miss honey when she said “no i did not!”, her eyes wide and wild and pleading to be believed. while her matilda is very precocious and strong, she’s so desperate to be loved, and her demeanor completely changes in miss honey’s presence. her body relaxes, she smiles, her eyes soften, and she looks at her like she’s the only person in the world.
- her stories were incredible. she would start off each story seeming very much like a little girl trying to work through her horrible childhood, and slowly, the stories would start to gain their own life and she would be swept away, confident, enthusiastic and having the most fun she’s ever had in her life, really appearing to be channeling these stories and characters.
- she’s also REALLY funny. when frenie declared her her best friend, bailey made this face like “um, i never said i was going to go along with that, you crazy person…oh what the heck, i want a best friend, sure!" and during the smell of rebellion, when she was holding the pose in the spotlight and ben glared at her, she made a face and pointed down at the mat like "oh, you…wanted me to fall on my face like everyone else, not succeed? my bad!" and of course her facial expressions during naughty were terrific.
- her dancing was impeccable
- i’m taking this verbatim from something i posted about bailey’s final show, because i don’t think i can say it any better:
i usually think of miss honey as the calm presence in matilda’s life. but jill as miss honey completely loses it during this scene, and with bailey’s sweet, empathetic presence rather than being off-putting it’s very affecting. bailey on her knees watching jill has the uncanny feeling of a priest hearing confession. it’s a truly unique moment between performers and i don’t know that it would work with another matilda or another miss honey. but for them, *matilda* being the calm in miss honey’s storm worked poignantly and perfectly.
so that’s my take on the best moments for the four original matildas. please let me know if you agree, disagree, think i missed anything, etc. i’d love to hear about what you loved most about the matildas you saw!
and if you read all this, don’t forget to like it to be entered in my playbill giveaway! and stay tuned for the next entry, about paige, ava, ripley and gabby :)
Joshua Pruett, Writer and Storyboard artist for Phineas and Ferb, just posted on his twitter 2 posters used as pitches for the next one hour Phineas and Ferb special, “Night of the Living Pharmacist” which Dan and Swampy revealed during Spreecast for Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars.
In the special, Doofenshmirtz gets hit by a curse which turns people he touches into clones of himself.
According to Dan and Swampy announced that the special will air this year on Halloween.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who guest starred in the show before, return to guest star in this special but also as a big surprise, George A. Romero, who is best known for making some of the best zombie films including “Night of the Living Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead” and many more, is going to be in it as well. What role he is going to play in this special in unknown at the time.
Either way, this is one special I am looking forward to. I can’t wait for Halloween now. ^_^
happy trails to milly shapiro, who took (or will take, no one seems sure!) her final bow as matilda today.
milly is an amazingly talented little girl. i haven’t heard a voice like hers in a young person since daisy eagan back in the 90s. but i’d rather comment on how in every interview and appearance, milly comes across as intelligent, kind, interesting, compassionate, imaginative, funny, clever and strong. she admires matilda for being the hero of her own story and hopes that matilda will empower other children to stand up and do the same. it’s nice to be talented, and milly surely is, but it’s more important to be an awesome person, and milly IS matilda in all the ways that matter.
whatever milly ends up doing with her life, i don’t doubt that she will change the world. the future has great things in store for her.