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Best written reviews for “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” performed by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. Reviewed on April 30, 2022.

Charley Braceland

W.T. Woodson High School


Get your nose out of your book and turn your attention to the stage. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) invites you to enjoy their spectacular performance of Matilda, brimming with joy, sadness, and revolution.


In 2010, Roald Dahl's beloved children's book Matilda took to the stage as a musical by the same name, adapted by Dennis Kelly with music by Tim Minchin. Staying true to Dahl's tale, the musical tells the story of Matilda, a young girl favored with both fantastical smarts and unusual powers. Taking control of her own destiny, Matilda stands up for what is right, be it against her parents or her principal.


TJHSST's Matilda was masterfully played by Sarina Saran, who captured the childlike defiance of Matilda's character perfectly. Portraying such a young character is no easy feat, and Saran executed each line flawlessly with untiring energy throughout the entire show. In her songs "Naughty" and "Quiet," Saran maintained her characterization of Matilda, staying consistent with her accent. Saran blew the audience away in the finale with her consummate ability to speak a foreign language so faultlessly.


Saran's performance was only strengthened by the ensemble of Matilda's Classmates. Their chemistry with Saran was natural, making every character interaction feel real. Micaela Wells, performing as Matilda's best friend Lavender, brought the bright energy of a child to the stage, and charmed the audience with a fun acrobatic trick. Another of Matilda's classmates, Bruce, was played by Cyrus Rivers, a magnificently talented individual. Rivers was the icing on the cake with his devoted acting, stunning vocals, and magnificent dance numbers, enthralling the audience in songs such as "Bruce" and "Revolting Children."


Contrasting Saran's character was Ryan Lien as Mrs. Trunchbull. A tricky part to play, Lien gave a remarkable display of Mrs. Trunchbull's grotesque and belligerent attitude. Lien depicted his character's crazed deportment to the extreme, leaping about the stage and snarling like a wild animal, never breaking character once in the entire show. Lien's performance was strikingly skillful, captivating and entertaining the audience throughout the whole performance.


TJHSST's actors were not the only brilliant ones, as their technical crew exceedingly outdid themselves. Lighting by Ryan Lien, Rachel Kwon, Cullan Kelley, and Charles Bucher was enchanting, flashing bright lights onstage and in the audience, creating moving rainbows and patterns of color behind the actors, and showing accomplished understanding of complex lighting techniques. Their greatest work was shown through the songs "Loud," "Quiet," and "Revolting Children," though their professional knowledge of lighting was exhibited throughout the whole show.


Sets by Hannah Frieden, Mira Singh, Champe Mitchell, and Dani Hunter were dazzling, capturing the whimsy of lighthearted scenes with vivid colors, and accenting scarier scenes with meticulously designed set pieces, such as the formidable and climbable school gate in "School Song." Mayuka Valluri, Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon, Jason Klein, and Charles Bucher worked together to combine STEM with Theatre Arts, constructing magnificent columns on stage and writing hundreds of lines of code in order to program signs to pop out of each column to indicate a scene change. With such a unique addition to this show, the columns were admirable not only for their design and construction, but for their inventiveness as well.


TJHSST's production of Matilda was an unforgettable performance, using the cast and crew's individual expertise to truly make the musical their own. Every aspect amazingly and exquisitely delivered this story of courage and justice to its delighted audience.

Aislinn Moore

St. Stephens & St. Agnes School


Magical powers, books, evil parents, and a big fat bully…Thomas Jefferson High School's Production of Matilda had all someone needs to be a little bit "Naughty."


Matilda is about one exceptionally smart girl, Matilda (Sarina Saran), with special powers, born to two parents who are quite the opposite. Matilda loves books and learning, but her parents love the telly and think Miss Trunchbull (Ryan Lien) will be able to fix Matilda's "broken behavior." At Matilda's new school, she meets the sweetest teacher, Ms. Honey (Riva Jain) who understands her. Matilda was originally a novel written by Roald Dahl and published in 1988. The book was then adapted into a film in 1996 starring Danny DeVito as Mr. Wormwood. The musical was further adapted by Dennis Kelly and first put on stage in 2010. Matilda is popular on the West End and made it to Broadway in 2013 to 2017. Matilda explores themes of family, power, and education.


Everyone in Thomas Jefferson High School's substantial cast was able to hold the great and infectious energy needed throughout the whole production making the show entertaining to watch. Everything was so well thought out and strategic that one could not wait to see what was going to happen next. 


Sarina Saran (Matilda) was able to hold her versatile role well. She juggled having to be funny, cunning, and clever with ease. She especially did well creating suspense during her storytelling of the Acrobat (Evelyne Breed) and the Escapologist (Sri Vellakkat). The audience was on the edge of their seat along with the librarian, Mrs. Phelps (Hannah Frieden).


A pivotal part to the story, Ryan Lien (Miss Trunchbull), was effortlessly hilarious and had the audience in constant laughter. Lien did exactly the perfect action at the perfect time. His vocals were also extremely impressive considering he continuously was using a high voice and doing extravagant dance and gymnastic moves, especially during "The Smell of Rebellion". Another very memorable number was Mrs. Wormwood's (Aafreen Ali) song "Loud". Her energy was impressively vivacious throughout the show, and she really shined during "Loud". Her ability to stay loud with all her fantastic dancing was spectacular. Cyrus Rivers, as Bruce, was also able to draw the eye to him and gave a spectacular performance in "Revolting Children" and "Bruce". 


The lighting in this show was phenomenal. The lights were always on point, especially during songs like "Loud", where the backdrop was neon pink and orange. The seemingly gibberish word tiles up the side of the stage were ingeniously used during the remarkable "Revolting Children" number. The scrambled letters were lit up to spell words in this song and it was a super exciting part of the show. The props used in the show were unique and key parts of the show. The gymnastic equipment used in "The Smell of Rebellion" was real equipment that transformed the stage into a jungle gym. The gate to the school was also particularly notable, especially during the scene when the letters were dropped into it. It was very smoothly done. Finally, the costumes were very strategic. Miss Trunchbull's shining tracksuit was hilarious, and Mrs. Wormwood's pull away orange dress to a shiny pink dress was stunning and well executed.


Thomas Jefferson High School's Production of Matilda was strategically rib-tickling and showed the audience how to stand up to the bullies.


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