Winner of 50 international awards, including the Tony Award®, Matilda The Musical is certainly one of the biggest hits currently on Broadway. It is based on the Roald Dahl novel and movie of the same name, and follows the misadventures of one extraordinary girl who, "armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny."
The touring production of Matilda The Musical is making its way up the West Coast. In preparation for its upcoming run in San Francisco, I got the chance to chat with one of the stars of the production, Quinn Mattfeld. Quinn caught me up on the current production and his part in it.
"I'm playing Harry Wormwood, who is Matilda Wormwood's father. The story is really about Matilda and the Wormwoods have their little miniature play kind of within the show. But the larger scope of the show is about Matilda, and how she sort of lives with a family that isn't very nice to her, doesn't really understand her, and doesn't make much of an effort to understand her. She's really smart and she loves books. She's really talented and the rest of the family is kind of not into that. I have an entire song that is about how everything I know I learned from the television. So I'm trying constantly trying to encourage her to stop reading, because her mother and I find it weird. So the man overarching story for her (Matilda) is how to find acceptance and how to make your way though the world."
The show is right in the middle of its West Coast run.
"I was cast back in December and we started rehearsals in March in New York. Then we went up to Connecticut for previews and then we moved the production here (Los Angeles) at the beginning of May. We'll be here for seven week and then after this we go on to San Francisco for six weeks. L.A. has been so great, it's been a wonderful opening, but we also really excited to see how it plays in San Francisco. I think it's going to go really well."
Quinn also talked about how he did and did not prepare for his part in a musical cased on such a legendary and well-known book.
"I knew of Matilda, I had seen the film years and years ago. And then when I got the part I was driving around a lot with my wife. We were driving around the country and I got an audio book version of it that was narrated by Kate Winslet. You know, you think of Kate Winslet and she was so amazing. She was so versatile. She did every voice. And she created such a clear funny unique picture. So when I got to rehearsal it was really interesting to have that working in my brain. I wouldn't say that I necessarily tried to emulate that, but it was sill interesting. She ahs such a colorful picture, that I got to see it in my brain before I got to do it. And then I saw the Broadway show as well. I got to see Matt Harrington's version of My Wormwood, which is fantastic. I cannot dog too much into source material, because if I read something I think, 'Oh I think I get how this works' so I try to leave it alone. I try to be careful, as an actor, about what I put into my imagination. When I started reading Dennis Kelly's script, it was so clear what he was (Mr. Wormwood) and how he operated in the world, I thought 'Ok, I got this.' You can come to the show and tell me if I was right."
"The other people who've play Mr. Wormwood tend to be people who have gone to graduate school and have training vocally and in terms of style and stuff because it's a really delicate balance to play somebody who is cartoonishly drawn on the outside as the character is but also real heart and real sentiment. And a real human insecurity. He has no idea what he's doing. It's a challenge, and it's been nice because I feel like I've been uniquely prepared throughout my career to play something like this. It's really wonderful to get to do it everywhere in the country."
Quinn was really excited to chat about the team behind Matilda, sharing the story with kids, and the reception it's received so far.
"Tim Minchin, the man who did the music and lyrics, and the creative team for this show, are absolutely genius. Matthew Warchus' direction is amazing. Tim Minchin's lyrics are so great because he was a Roald Dahl nerd (self-admitted). It's good for kids and it's great for the whole family. But it also has these other layers to it. Things that only adults are going to get about looking back on their childhood. It's almost like a Pixar film; there are so many layers. I was amazed when I did the audio book, that there was this darkness to it. It's great for kids but it doesn't sugar coat it. It's not 'everything is light and peaches and wonderful.' It's like yea you're going to have some mean bullies in your life and you're going to have some dark times. And you're going to have some self-doubt. And that's OK. The great thing about the show if that it says there's magic in stories, and there's magic in imagination and that ends up coming to life. And that you can change your own story. You can rewrite your own story. And to give that to a kid is so great. I am so happy people are responding to it the way they are."
Matilda The Musical completes its run at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles on July 12, and then makes its way to San Francisco's Orpheum Theater for a five-week engagement starting July 15th.