Let us now praise revolting children.
Especially the leader of the pack: the title character in the altogether delightful “Matilda the Musical,” which continues through Sunday at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall.
The heroine of the piece happens to be 5 years old — or, more accurately, 5 going on 50.
Yet despite the title character’s chronological age, “Matilda the Musical” is no mere kiddie show. Not with Roald Dahl’s sly, subversive humor powering the proceedings.
The wonderful writer who brought us, among other indelible tales, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “The BFG” and more, also created “Matilda’s” singular world.
It’s the kind of world where children have life lessons to teach. If only the heedless, clueless — and sometimes heartless — so-called adults would pay attention.
Alas, some overly doting parents are too busy extolling the exceptionalism of their adorable offspring to notice their individuality.
In the case of Matilda Wormwood (the endearingly pensive Gabby Gutierrez, who played the role opening night, alternates with Jaime MacLean and Jenna Weir), she truly is exceptional. But to her crassly oblivious parents — a scheming car salesman (Matt Harrington) and a proudly brainless ballroom dancer (Darcy Stewart) — their child’s an annoyance at best, a freak at worst.
Things are no better when Matilda starts school and encounters an even more malevolent presence: the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull (the gleefully eeeevil Dan Chameroy), a former hammer-throwing champion who now hammers her Crunchem Hall charges with relentless zeal.
Given her positively Dickensian circumstances, it’s a good thing 5-year-old Matilda can read Dickens. (Not to mention Dostoyevsky.) But mere reversals of fortune are no match for her ingenuity, determination and righteous indignation.
“That’s not right!” Matilda’s forever reminding the grown-ups in charge. And “sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty,” she reminds herself as she launches another mischievous missile in her ongoing battle against injustice.
Dennis Kelly’s Tony-winning adaptation streamlines Dahl’s tale yet retains the story’s satiric punch, while composer Tim Minchin serves up a range of delectable tunes by turns raucous, hilarious and tender. (The chorus of kids may not have the crispest diction, but you’ll get the gist of such songs as “When I Grow Up” and “Revolting Children,” even if you don’t catch every last word.)
Director Matthew Warchus and his exemplary team (including two Tony-winners, set designer Rob Howell and lighting designer Hugh Vanstone) conjure “Matilda’s” suitably fanciful world in sprightly yet insightful style.
Books, letters (deployed Scrabble-style on tiles) and (literal) building blocks emerge as omnipresent motifs, suggesting that knowledge, insight and imagination are all around you. Provided you follow Matilda’s lead and open your eyes — and, even more importantly, your mind and heart.