‘Matilda’ is magic

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Taj Gutierrez plays Headmistress Trunchbull in a classroom scene from “Matilda the Musical.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Rain Berrett Verd plays Matilda in “Matilda the Musical.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Cast members in a scene with swings in “Matilda the Musical.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Taj Gutierrez playing Headmistress Trunchbull, watches students in a classroom scene from “Matilda the Musical.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Taj Gutierrez, right, plays Headmistress Trunchbull, keeping her students in line in a classroom scene from “Matilda the Musical.”

When Director and Choreographer Carol Culver said “Matilda the Musical” was one of the best productions by Hawaii Children’s Theatre, one would think that’s just the usual praise that comes from, of course, the director. It can’t be that good, right?

Wrong. It is that good. After seeing this play, we have to say that wasn’t just talk.

“Matilda the Musical” ranks right up there with HCT’s “Newsies” from last year. That one was brilliant, with fantastic song, dance, acting and choreography. “Matilda” is every bit as good.

The stage, the lighting, the props, set the scenes. This show flows smoothly, start to finish. And, speaking of the final scene, we won’t spoil it, but it’s wonderful.

That much of this cast is kids speaks highly of their dedication and how hard they worked. They really come across as seasoned actors. Sure, this is a fun, fast-paced musical, but they’re not up there messing around. They put their hearts into each number. Kudos to Culver and her team for putting this together and offering it to the community.

This is a terrific cast with fine performances. Of course, much of the attention falls on Rain Barrett Verd and Karlie Goldberg, who alternate playing Matilda. Both are outstanding. They have you rooting for Matilda and turn her into the lovable little girl she is right before your eyes. This character with telekinetic abilities is beyond smart and kind and, thanks to Rain and Karlie, you have no trouble believing it. Because if you get a chance to talk to them, they’re pretty darn smart and kind, too. For actors so young, Verd is 10 and Goldberg, 11, they are mature and responsible.

Taj Gutierrez as Headmistress Trunchbull gives what may be his best performance on Kauai in his young acting career. His mannerisms, his movements, his facial expressions, his voice inflections, bring the horrible Trunchbull to life. He somehow manages to make her almost — almost — likable. She is a monster, for sure, but Gutierrez makes her human, too. You can’t help but be impressed at the acrobatics he displays in the exercise scene. He also showcases a powerful singing voice, something that might, to some, come across as a bit of a surprise. But then again, this role gives him a chance to display a range of acting and singing abilities, and he does.

Another actor who shines is Erin Gaines as the mousy Miss Honey. Gaines plays it straight as the timid teacher who has trouble standing up for herself and her students, but who quickly sees the potential in Matilda and tries to give her opportunities to grow. Gaines also rises up when she sings. She’s been in many productions on Kauai, but this is one of those times where she gives solos and, like Taj, she shows off strong vocals with great range.

There really is nothing to criticize with this musical. Nothing to point out that should be improved. Everyone in this production stands out. Larry Richardson as Mr. Wormwood and Sabryn Rudinoff as Mrs. Wormwood are perfect as Matilda’s self-absorbed, uncaring parents. Kayman Addison, as Bruce, the boy who lets out a room-rattling burp and who must eat an entire chocolate cake as punishment — and does it well — draws well-earned laughter.

HCT, once again, has delivered a top-notch production in “Matilda the Musical. Don’t miss this.

Shows are 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, and against next weekend, at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 students and seniors, and 3 and under are free. Get tickets at the door or at www.hawaiichildrenstheatre.org.

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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