New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley described Broadway's Matilda as the most "satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain" and "an exhilarating tale of empowerment, as told from the perspective of the most powerless group of all — little children." The national tour of the Tony-winning Roald Dahl-inspired musical is much like its New York counterpart. On some nights, because of twin brothers Justin and Geoff Packard, the two shows are almost exactly alike.
Justin and Geoff both play various ensemble roles while understudying the slimy Mr. Wormwood and the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull. Geoff's on Broadway. Justin's touring the country and coming to Memphis when Matilda opens at The Orpheum this week. Six weeks ago, they both got the call and found out they'd be performing the same role simultaneously.
"Because this tour started on the West Coast, we weren't performing at the same time, even when we were doing the same role," Justin explains. "Then I got back to the East Coast, and he texted me: 'I guess we're both Trunchbulls today' — it was cool."
Justin and Geoff aren't identical, but they were once inseparable. Both started out as athletes before transitioning into theater. "We'd go straight from football practice to play rehearsal," Justin says, remembering high school shows where he'd play the villain to his brother's hero. "It was always like, 'Here come the Packard Brothers,' until Geoff went to the University of Cincinnati, and I went to Ithaca College in upstate New York. Before that, we'd never really had different experiences."
Matilda tells the story of a pint-sized prankster with self-taught telekinetic powers. It's even more faithful to the spirit and letter of Dahl's novel than the acclaimed 1996 film directed by and starring Danny DeVito.