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Will My Kid Like ‘Matilda’? A Guide To Kid-Friendly Arts In San Diego

A 2019 photo from

Photo by Ken Jacques

Above: A 2019 photo from "Matilda The Musical" at Moonlight Amphitheatre.

There are so many things to consider before buying kids a theater ticket. Will they be bored and jiggly in their seat? Is it appropriate? How late will they be staying out? And most important, is the price worth the artistic and cultural education?

In this KPBS/Arts feature, we take a look at artistic events from a family perspective. This month we venture to Vista's outdoor Moonlight Amphitheatre for "Matilda."

"Matilda The Musical"

When: Plays through Sunday, Aug. 3

Best for ages: 7 and older

Where to park: Plenty of free spots throughout the venue, but try to park near an exit to avoid waiting in a long line to get out.

What to wear: Casual, light layers. Don't let the heat fool you, Moonlight is an outdoor theater that can get chilly after intermission.

Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission

Tickets and details: moonlightstage.com

Synopsis: "Matilda," based on the Roald Dahl book, is about a brilliant five-year-old girl who is unloved, unwanted and misunderstood by her idiotic parents. At school, Matilda and her classmates are terrorized by evil principal Miss Trunchbull. But throughout it all, Matilda maintains a positive attitude, constantly stands up for herself, and forms a close bond with her teacher, Miss Honey.

This sounds incredibly depressing ... Yes, this show is nearly three hours of sad, mean and cruel behavior. The worst of it being Trunchbull's favorite torture device, the Chokey, "a very tall but narrow cupboard. The floor is only ten inches square so you can’t sit down or squat in it. You have to stand. And three of the walls are made of cement with bits of broken glass sticking out all over, so you can’t lean against them." Can you lean on the door? Nope, it's got "thousands of spikey nails sticking out of it."

Is the musical actually kid-friendly? For all its gloom, "Matilda" is a surprisingly colorful show. Matilda's family is loud and cartoonish. Matilda's mom is obsessed with dancing, so you get a fun salsa number. Plus there's some random craziness involving Russian gangsters.

Photo by Ken Jacques

A 2019 photo of The Wormwood family from Moonlight's production of "Matilda The Musical."

Who plays Matilda? Matilda is a demanding role because she has to be equal parts sweet, melancholy and mischievous. Plus she needs to have stage presence and perform the entire show with a British accent. In this production, she's played expertly by L.A. actress Charity Rose, who has done quite a bit of TV including "The Goldbergs" and "Happy Together."

Things kids will like: Matilda's school friends bring mischief and comedic relief to the otherwise heavy scenes. For example, Trunchbull forces a character named Bruce to eat a giant chocolate cake. There's also a group of teens who do much of the dancing, bringing a dose of peppy energy.

Photo by Adriana Zuniga

A photo of the kids and teen ensemble from Moonlight's 2019 production of "Matilda The Musical."

Things parents will like: Validation that there are worse parents out there, even if fictional. Matilda's song, "Quiet," is powerful and heartfelt.

Things kids might not like: The Trunchbull, as she's called, is terrifying and the epitome of a bully. Scenes in the library, where Matilda imagines a story about an acrobat and escapologist feel long (but the story does have a good payoff, so pay attention!).

Things parents might not like: Matilda plays some pranks on her dad, like putting bleach in his hair cream, that may inspire some mischief at home. The Wormwood family glorifies television over reading.

Photo by Ken Jacques

A photo of Randall Hickman (right) and Miss Trunchbull, from Moonlight Amphitheatre's 2019 production of "Matilda The Musical."

What if my kid can't sit through a long musical? This show is nearly three hours, but thankfully it's at Moonlight which is a perfect venue for families. You have the option of buying traditional seats or reserved lawn spots near the stage. If you have young, wiggly kids, opt for a reserved lawn spot where they can wander a bit and even lay on a blanket when it gets late. For kids with extra energy, get the general lawn seats. It's not as close, but you can still see the stage and there's lots of room to run around.

Hot tip: If you want to pay homage to the cake-eating Bruce, order the chocolate brownie at concessions.

Make it a picnic: Another reason Moonlight Amphitheatre is so family-friendly is because you're allowed to bring food to the venue (but you can't bring alcohol; you can, however, buy beer and wine at concessions). You can pack food at home, stop for cheese and berries at the market, or pick food up at a nearby restaurant, and head to the venue as early as 6 p.m.

So, will kids like "Matilda"? Small kids may be restless during scenes without Matilda's classmates, but older ones will appreciate the magical side of "Matilda," one with strange coincidences and even telekinetic powers.

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