Matilda the Musical

When I was a kid, we didn’t have much money, but one thing I always got if I asked for it was new books. I grew up watching Sesame Street and learning to read before I was 5 years old. So needless to say when I was younger and read Matilda I found a kid I could identify with (except the parents being awful to her that is!).

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I’ve entertained going to Matilda the Musical a few times, and then a partnership with work aligned this so I could go opening night here in Chicago. And I was absolutely blown away and this went beyond my expectations.  Sometimes with traveling shows, the production value can drop – some a bit and some a lot (yikes Mamma Mia!). This one? Based on the photos, reviews, a clips I’ve seen, this was the exact show that is currently on the West End.

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Matilda is an amazing story about a very special child. One who is not appreciated by her parents and treated terribly. School would seemingly be her escape, except that the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is even more vile. Matilda finds that she can be herself around her teacher, Miss Honey, and the two immediately form a bond.

The musical stays true to the original material and is more magical than I ever would have expected. It is one thing to watch the movie, because through the power of movies, you can show a little girl being thrown around by her pigtails. But the fact that they even did this in the stage production thrilled me. I just assumed they would mention that Miss Trunchbull did such a horrid thing to a student!

The musical numbers get stuck in your head for weeks, trust me. “Naughty” reminds you that sometimes a person needs a bit of mischief. “Revolting Children” makes you want to cheer for the kids as they are indeed, revolting against Trunchbull! But the song that sticks out the most for me is “When I Grow Up” and I can only imagine that is because it speaks not only to the children but to the adults as well. Before seeing the show, I read the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones’ love for this exact song and thought it sounded great already. But seeing it on stage is an amazing feeling. Adding the swing sets from the rafters creating the illusion that the children are flying over the audience made me smile ear-to-ear.

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A song about kids wanting to be adults. What could be more fun? But then the mood changes drastically. Now it’s about the adults losing their childhood. There’s no happy medium apparently. A very real conversation we adults have with each other every day.

Which I believe added to my love for this musical. Not only did I identify with Matilda as a child, but now that I’m older I think I still do. And I’m thankful for that because I never lost a lot of my childlike qualities. I find joy in everything, I attempt to have as much fun as possible (even if there are chores to be done – they’ll get done! Don’t pass up enjoying life!), and my wife and I tend to live our lives just like this. Also, I still read like a fiend and the library is my best friend (Chicago Public Library is seriously amazing!).

It’s always interesting to me to see if a muscial really GOT to me or not. And the fact that I saw it a couple weeks ago and it’s still in my head says it did. Particularly the chorus of “Naughty”.

Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
Nothing will change.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying you think that it’s OK,
And that’s not right.

My office mate, who attended the show with me, and I both came in the next day to work talking about that particular line. If you’re unhappy, change what’s making you that way. You don’t have to take it. And that resonated with the both of us.

If Matilda the Musical comes through your city, don’t pass it up because it’s a “kids show”.  It’s really so much more than that. You’ll find yourself in there, I promise.

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ALL the tickets!

Yesterday was new subscriber package purchasing day. Which we all know was about to be my favorite day of the year. I was on my phone at 9:58 ready to sit on hold with Broadway in Chicago.

Yesterday I WERKED

The only thing was that there was no queue – you had to keep calling back! Eek. But LUCKILY the musical gods showed me the love and on call #4 a lovely lady by the name of Frankie picked up and I tried not to squeal like a teenager.

And then again my hopes were dashed when I discovered I was just giving my information to a person, not really for certain getting subscriber tickets. I was so confused because in the past I sat on the phone with a person and we picked out my seats together (which is part of the fun of subscribing to theatre packages IMO!). I got off the phone deflated. The excitement was gone.

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BUT on the bus ride home I received a call from Kevin at BIC. Long story short I didn’t have to wait until April to get my golden ticket. My card was charged, my seats were selected (even got all aisle seats as requested), and a wonderful, beautiful email come through last night confirming my dates.  It’s official! So I clinked glasses with my wife and relaxed.

Out of excitement I put the photo below on my Instagram (which you should follow):

It was a strange way to process tickets in my opinion, but I’m also not on their side of things. Being at an institution with a blockbuster exhibition happening, where we get 400 phone calls a day at least, I can only image Broadway in Chicago’s situation.

I will say I wish there was a magical way to sort out the people that wanted to see ALL the shows and not just Hamilton! 😛 But ah well, I’m happy and got my first choice. So kudos to the BIC team and a shout out to their social media person for handling questions, particularly mine, on Twitter!

Now the waiting begins for these shows. Aladdin is over a YEAR away. *cries* But I’m sure it will be here before we know it.

Les Miserable (for the second and last time)

When Val and I first started dating, she treated me to Les Miserables at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts in Houston, Texas.  I was ecstatic.  This was a show I dreamed of seeing for ever and now I finally get to see it and how this moving circle thing with people walking on it works….


I also didn’t know and/or realize this would be the beginning of a long, long list of shows that Val and I would end up seeing in our lives together.  


Now back in Houston I left feeling, in a word, “meh” about the whole experience.  But then again, I’ve hated the acoustics in that theater (don’t get me started about the 2nd time I saw Rent and couldn’t even hear the first act) so I wasn’t surprised.  


So when we heard that Les Mis was coming to Chicago, we bought the season ticket package and were off!  It was the first show of the new season!

this was taken leaving Wicked 2 months before



So we were off with some high hopes of seeing this epic show in a new light.  I read about how it’s been redone for the 25th Anniversary.  The turning center of the stage is gone.  There’s new stage scenery and some new technology?  I’m interested!


Unfortunately though, we left with the same “meh” feeling once more.  I think that was the last chance I’m giving Les Miserables on stage.  Though the music continues to move me.  I think we just haven’t seen any strong individuals in this show.  No one’s voice is carrying the way that they use to in the Les Mis shows of old (and on CDs) so our expectations are high.  As an ensemble though the weight that the songs have is amazing.  



Luckily we knew the lyrics because some of them ended up getting lost for whatever reason.  Muffled sounds.  So weird in such a great theater!  Valjean was just a loud singer.  Nothing to write home about.  Fantine made me cringe at times.  Éponine was actually one of my favorites. And then later on the train ride home we had a laugh about how the auditions must be for Young Cossette.  The child’s voice almost sounds recorded because no matter what production you’re seeing ‘Castle on a Cloud’ sounds *exactly* the same!  


The changes I happened to like while Val did not.  The lack of the moving stage didn’t bother me too much.  Now there’s a screen behind them showing a road (or sewer etc) and the perception of it makes it seem like they’re actually moving.  The sewer scene made me slightly nauseous even with how it made my sense feel like I was watching a movie!  Also, *SPOILER ALERT* for the death of Javier, that was much better than the actor jumping off the “bridge” and down the stage hole below.  He is now hoisted and hovers flailing his arms and legs while the scene moves behind him quickly giving the illusion of falling down.  It was beautiful (I guess as suicide can be?) and that image has still stuck with me.  


Also of course, the epic battle scene (or as I like to call it “EVERYONE DIES!!!”).  They really make you feel like you’re behind the barricade with them.  Feel every loud gun shot and feel for every fallen solider.  



All-in-all I’m very happy we tried again.  Oddly enough though the new Les Miserables in Concert was on WTTW when we got home off the train and we ended up watching most of that for the rest of the evening.  Now THAT is what the singing in our show should have sounded like!!  Besides Nick Jonas that is.  Talk about one of these things is not like the other.  His voice does NOT carry with the power in everyone else’s.  Kinda feel for the guy…..


What are your experiences with Les Miserables?  Have you seen the updated version?  Like it or loathe it?