A daring, if, empowering musical on child abuse

Tales of cruelty inflicted on children are part of horrible stories one gets from prime- time TV news.

Cruelty on children with Philippine setting is confirmed by a baseline study on violence against children which shows 60% of physical violence suffered by children and 38% of psychological violence happen in their homes.

A sample of psychological violence a child goes through is vividly reenacted in the musical Matilda which is about a young wonder kid standing up to her rights.

Uma Naomi Martin as Matilda. She dazzles as a singing young actor.

Super talented as Matilda is, her parents have other concerns and other priorities to even bother about properly nurturing their only daughter.

Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, the musical has its share of songs many will find uninspiring with such titles as “Naughty” and “Revolting Children.”

Indeed, playwright David Kelly and composer-lyricist Tim Minchin have created a powerful musical about the reality of children abuse in domestic settings.

The most hateful part is when a school authority (Miss Trunchbull)orders a student to finish an entire cake in front of the class as punishment.

Uma Naomi Martin --who has made her theater debut in A Little Princess – emerged a triumphant child actor in the title role and how her character received an outpouring of love and sympathy from the audience reflects how vividly she delineated her character.

Like it or not, she represents the new brilliant generation of child actors exemplified in the past by Lea Salonga (Annie) and Monique Wilson (Diary of Anne Frank) who are now theater icons in their respected fields of career choices.

How the young Martin fared in a musical running for over two hours is a tribute to her natural affinity for acting and singing.

To her advantage, the young Martin had the voice and the pathos to make the part doubly memorable.

Playing the young character who loves books and in the end speaking Russian to her stunned adult counterparts in the play, Martin’s portrayal gave a stunning lesson on how to survive cruelty inflected by parents who cannot connect with their children.

Jamie Wilson as Miss Trunchball with the Miss Honey of Cris Villonco. The stunning villain in the musical.

Joyfully, the musical has sympathetic characters coming to the rescue of the wonder kid in the person of her teacher Miss Honey portrayed with such warmth and compassion by Cris Villonco. She is the voice of the concerned teacher who must stand up for the kids at the risk of getting the ire of school authorities personified by the head school mistress acted with spiteful glee by actor Jamie Wilson.

Brilliantly directed by Bobby Garcia, Matilda has an equally superb children ensemble one member of whom is Nicole Chien, daughter of Lea Salonga.

Still and all, the most hated character in the musical is Miss Trunchball whose insensitivity to children is vividly reflected in the song number, “Children Are Maggots.”

The credit belongs to Wilson who crossed gender lines to play the part with such convincing realism. He has 37 years of theater exposure behind him with theater credits that include Pippin, Almost Maine, Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli; The Four Seasons, and Run for Your Wife.

The year 2017 was a lot memorable to Wilson for many reasons. “My year as an actor was a lot of fun, and fulfilling. This year I got to play two kinds of bullies, in both Kinky Boots and Matilda. And I’ve learned a lot from these two roles, and from the people I’ve worked with in these two productions. I can only wish that everyone can somehow do what they are destined to do; that we all find a way to fulfill our dreams, to live a life of love and passion, and that we be kinder, decent, generous and compassionate human beings.”

Cast of Matilda. The musical has a good lesson for both the young and old alike.

As for jolting portrayal of a much-hated character, Wilson told Vera Files: “Miss Trunchbull is hands down one of the most difficult roles I have ever had to play. From her character alone, to inhabit such an evil person, who thrives on the suffering of others, is truly exhausting. There can be no compassion, no pity, no redemption on her part. Technically, her vocal and physical demands are tremendous I’ve had to work out extensively to get into shape to meet the demands of this role. But that said, she is so deliciously wicked that as an actor, I am having so much fun playing her!”

The actor is celebrating his 38th year in theater and thus he is thankful for the unique and interesting roles that came his way. “I am fortunate to be able to work with a lot of incredibly passionate and talented people. It’s a constant learning experience for me, and these lessons served me in good stead not just as an actor, but also as a person. I will forever be grateful for these opportunities.”

Matilda will have remaining performances on December 8, 9 and 10 with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday apart from the evening shows at 8.

For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999.


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