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‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical’ worth the wait

Audrey Edwards, a sixth-grade student, performed on opening night in the lead in “Roald Dahl’s Mathilda the Musical.”
Audrey Edwards, a sixth-grade student, performed on opening night in the lead in “Roald Dahl’s Mathilda the Musical.”

OAKBROOK TERRACE – “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,” a smash hit since its Broadway debut in April 2013, is now making waves in its long-anticipated regional premiere at Drury Lane Theatre.

The engaging production features a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin with additional orchestrations by Chris Nightingale. Mitch Sebastian provides solid direction and creative choreography.

The demanding title role of Matilda rotates between two powerhouses: Audrey Edwards of Chicago (who appeared on opening night) and Warrenville native Natalie Galla.

Inspired by a 1988 children’s book by the late British author and master storyteller Roald Dahl, the tale focuses on a precocious 5-year-old girl who is a whiz at math and an avid reader, having plowed through Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” and selected classics by Dickens and Dostoevsky.

Unfortunately, Matilda’s gifts haven’t begun to help her fulfill dreams of a better life. She finds no support from her flighty, self-absorbed mother, Mrs. Wormwood (Stephanie Gibson).

It’s the same scenario with Matilda’s dismissive father, Mr. Wormwood (played by Jackson Evans), an unscrupulous used car salesman. He strongly admonishes Matilda to quit reading because “looks are better than books.”

Meanwhile, at school Matilda and her classmates face another nightmare: the terrifying headmistress Miss Trunchbull (a memorable scene-stealing performance by Sean Fortunato in drag), who terrorizes students whom he refers to as “maggots” and cautions them not to enter the premises with words like patience, kindness or respect on their lips.

To her relief, Matilda finds a friend in the sympathetic local librarian Mrs. Phelps (Linda Bright Clay). She also finds an advocate in Miss Honey (Eben K. Logan), a teacher who won’t be cowed by Miss Trunchbull.

The above-the-norm cast includes two ensembles (adult and children) bursting with talented singers and dancers.

A quibble – and one that apparently cropped up during the national tour – concerns a few instances in which the sound system didn’t measure up. Though the volume was loud enough, some lyrics were a challenge to decipher.

The creative team includes Roberta Duchak, music director; Jeffrey D. Kmiec, scenic design; Theresa Ham, costumes; Driscoll Otto, lighting and projections; and Ray Nardelli, among others.

“Matilda” is larded with timely songs that capture the ups and downs its characters must navigate. Among them are “Naughty,” “Quiet,” “When I Grow Up” and “The Smell of Rebellion.”

If you go

WHAT: “Roald Dahl’s Mathilda the Musical”

WHEN: Through June 23

WHERE: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace

COST: $55 to $70

TICKET INFO: 630-530-0111 or 800-745-3000 or visit DruryLaneTheatre.com

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