I’ve been meaning to see Matilda on Broadway for ages, but I only got around to it a few weeks ago. It was a no-brainer that I’d see it eventually. I loved the book as a kid – what book-loving kid didn’t love Matilda and all her books, not to mention her telekinetic powers? But while I’d heard it was a fun, I didn’t have an urgent need to see it, and I figured it’d run long enough that I’d get around to it.
When my friend mentioned that she’d be coming to NYC for a weekend and asked if I’d like to see Matilda with her, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. And when she snagged $27 rush tickets in a box for us, it seemed like it was meant to be. Our view was obstructed, but that was okay, especially since at one point the actors came out to sing in the box we were in, just on the other side of a railing.
It’s funny how theater can catch you where you are. Matilda has a lot going on – social commentary about children being raised to think they’re special and about the effects of abuse, a running story-within-the-story that I don’t think was in the book, the power of reading – but one theme in particular struck me: how powerless you can feel as a kid, and how kids see grownups as having all the answers.
It’s clearest in the song “When I Grow Up”, a gorgeous ballad sung by the kids (some of whom, as throughout the show, are played by adults) about all the things that they’ll do once they grow up. Those things range from the silly but realistic (“I will eat sweets every day… and I will watch cartoons till my eyes go square” is a little too accurate, if you sub in Netflix for cartoons”) to the ones that make my heart hurt a little (“I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grownup” and “I will be smart enough to answer all the question that you need to know the answers to before you’re grown up). The song turns twice, first with Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, revealing that even as a grown up you don’t always have all the answers, and then with Matilda deciding to take control of her own story.
It’s been a little quiet here on the blog this last month, but for a good reason: I’m starting a new job today! It’s a new direction for me, and one I’m really excited about, but change is always a little scary, even if it’s a change you’ve been wanting to make for a while. I saw Matilda just a few days after I accepted my new job, as I started to share my news with friends and colleagues, and “When I Grow Up” was a lovely reminder that even as grownups we don’t always feel that grown up. And that it’s still important to have those goals of who you want to be and what you want to do – even the unrealistic ones! – and to be like Matilda, writing the story you want for yourself.
And now that I’m a grown up, I’d really like my own swing, to sing on. How come I had my own swing as a kid and now I don’t? Such a shame.
Want to check out more of the show? Take a look at this clip from the 2013 Tony Awards!