Matilda Hits a High Note


The familiar Lower-Middle School library is home to many a treasured memory for Hockaday students, who spent their formative years listening to stories and discovering new books in Junior Fiction.

One such book is Roald Dahl’s Matilda, a feel-good story about a little girl unloved by her parents because of her odd affinity for reading. She, however, eventually finds a family with her teacher, Miss Honey. Though the novel was published in 1988, the Broadway musical version only hit the stage in 2010.

While originally played by Kerry Ingram of “Game of Thrones,” the performance on Press Night at the Winspear Opera House had Mia Sinclair Jenness in the titular role.

At only nine years old, Sinclair Jenness already effortlessly carries a whole off-Broadway show on her own narrow shoulders. She commanded all eyes to her wherever she was on stage, whether that was running around with her ensemble of children or singing on the shelf in her room.

Her first true solo, “Naughty,” is sung while she causes mayhem for her unloving parents; she pours her mother’s blonde hair dye into her father’s hair gel and puts a ring of superglue around his hat.

Apart from carrying strong notes and projecting well, Sinclair Jenness gives the audience a much-needed reminder that that everyone needs to let loose sometimes and “be a little bit naughty.”

In addition to showcasing spectacular vocal talent, “Matilda” offers more than its fair share of comedic interludes in the form of Agnes Trunchbull, an Olympic hammer thrower and child-detesting headmistress. The image of Trunchbull stomping around on stage and fuming about the latest prank that one of Matilda’s classmates has performed is an unforgettable one.

Bryce Ryness, a broad-shouldered, six-foot tall man, plays the female Trunchbull for comedic effect. When examined more closely, however, the fact that headmistress Trunchbull was played by a man seems to reflect an obsolete standard of beauty and definition of gender. Aren’t we past that joke as a society? Just because a woman has a muscular build or a wide-set frame doesn’t equate her to being male.

Past the headmistress’s physical appearance is her evil personality; this is offset by Miss Honey, a compassionate schoolteacher played by Jennifer Blood. One of the more entertaining moments in the musical occurs when Honey clashes with Matilda’s mother.  

During the scene, Cassie Silva as Mrs. Wormwood brushes off Honey’s foolish thoughts about Matilda’s education and throws her disapproving glares throughout their encounter. At the same time, Silva leaves the audience in stitches as she waltzes around the stage in a gaudy ensemble and daydreams about leaving ballroom dancing competitors in the dust.

When it comes to parting ways with her despicable parents forever, Sinclair Jenness reveals no emotion and wholeheartedly embraces a life with her beloved Honey. Though predictable if one has had the pleasure of reading Dahl’s original work, the closing scene of Matilda strolling off into the sunset holding Miss Honey’s hand is truly an ending sweeter than honey.

– Maria Katsulos and Eshani Kishore –