Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Waltzing "Matilda"

As you can imagine, Uncle P was snarky even when he was a child. As with many people, snark was a form of defense when we were kids. And if you were funny, you didn't get picked on for being different... too much. I realize now why I loved Roald Dahl's books as a kid. Their heroes were always smart, good kids who always win the prize, expose and punish the bad adults and rise above adversity, ending up with a much better life.

And so it is with Matilda, a story about a very, very smart little girl who is being raised by rather dubious (and ignorant) parents who obviously don't care about her at all. Dumped in a private school run by an ogre of a headmistress (one Miss Trunchbull), thanks to a deal made by Matilda's crooked used-car dealer father, Matilda finds out some remarkable things about herself. Trunchbull is an evil tyrant, while Matilda's teacher Miss Honey, is kind and encouraging and (as it turns out), Trunchbull's niece, whom Trunchbull swindled out of her inheritance.

SPOLIER ALERTS: Matilda soon discovers she has telekinetic powers and uses them to right all the wrongs in her life, including finally allowing her to live happily ever after with kindly Miss Honey in the home that should have been hers, all along. End of spoilers.

Danny DeVito directed and appeared in a 1996 Americanized version, starring Mara Wilson (Mrs. Doubtfire); Rhea Perlman ("Cheers"); Embeth Davitz (Army of Darkness) Pam (Aunt Marge) Ferris and Paul  (Pee-Wee Herman) Reubens. It's a funny and delightful (if not always faithful) telling of the tale, transplanting it to America and softening some the Dahl's edges and brightening some of his darker corners. DeVito and Perlman are hilarious as Matilda's scumbag parents; Ferris is downright frightening as Trunchbull and Davitz is just sweet enough without ever once slipping in to saccharine. It's a sweet and fun family fantasy. I may just have to do a "Forgotten Gems" post on it, soon.

And now the book has been adapted into a stage musical by the RSC, which is taking the West End  by storm and looks to make the jump across the pond to Broadway next year. I had heard something about this a few months back, but either didn't know or had forgotten that my favorite satirical song-smith, Tim Minchin, had written the show's songs. I can't imagine anyone better for the job. I follow NPR on Facebook and and got directed  to this excited and exciting article about the show here. Personally, I don't remember being so excited for a musical adaptation since The Producers. Have a look for yourselves:

I have to admit to wearing a big, idiotic grin on my face as I write this post. Of course, this news came after my last gift-exchange gathering of the year, with the big three; Q, K and Dale. We all loved what we got and then sat down to the first pasta meal my very Italian Q has served me in almost 30 years of eating her food. We did do a group effort spaghetti and meatballs at K's tiny, 3rd floor apartment many years ago, but that hardly counts. It was delicious, as was dessert. As was the new Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey that K got from Q & Dale. I gotta get me a bottle of that! Yum! I also finally got to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes, thanks to Q & Dale's OnDemand - a terrific popcorn movie which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend, if you haven't already seen it. The four of us will gather again on New Year's Eve (along with a few other folks), for our traditional 'quiet' NYE. 

Sadly, real-life rears its ugly head until then, demanding the doing of laundry; the dusting of furniture; the putting-away of gifts and the running of the dishwasher. Maybe I should have gone to my sister's...

More, anon.

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