Review: ‘Matilda’ at Harris Center

Matilda: Thu 7pm, Fri 7pm, Sat 2pm & 7pm, Sun 2pm; Through 3/1; $46-$65; Harris Center, 10 College Pkwy, Folsom; (916) 608-6888;
Rated 4.0

Beloved children’s writer Roald Dahl feared that books would one day fully vanish from use and wanted to pen a volume, following his earlier successes of James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which the value of reading printed books would be instilled in a positive way for younger generations. This was the impetus for Matilda, in 1988, later made into a movie in 1996.

The story of the titular imaginative and precocious young heroine—thwarted by horrid parents at every turn and attending a school that seems like the inmate facilities at Devil’s Island—was ideally suited for a magical musical theater staging, and in 2011, Matilda the Musical was born, the book by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.

El Dorado Musical Theatre brings the show to the Harris Center for the Arts through Mar. 1. The core cast of youth principals handle the extensive erudite dialogue and lyrics splendidly, supported by not merely one, but two large casts of kids at alternating performances, most of them between ten to 20 years old. The show’s production values are superlative, on par with any professional touring show.

Matilda’s gauche father, a slick car salesman who “learned everything from the telly,” delivers the best line in the show in a curtain speech before the start of the second act, warning of the dangers of reading: “It will give you head lice of the soul!”

The treatment: See this delightful show, directed by Debbie Wilson.