First-Time Tony Nominee: Bertie Carvel hops the pond with ‘Matilda’ and picks up a Tony nomination for his celebrated performance as Trunchbull

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Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull

Bertie Carvel has made quite a name for himself by portraying a gender-bending version of Miss Trunchbull in Broadway’s recent hit, Matilda.

Matilda has been the hyped-up hit of the 2013 season and for good reason. Even though there are several extremely talented children leading the cast, Carvel’s performance comes out of nowhere to steal the show.

Most people remember the terrifying and imposing figure, Miss Trunchbull, in the 1996 movie version. “The Trunchbull” has enough masculine qualities that a person could certainly entertain the idea of a man playing the role but Carvel defies the odds of ridiculousness and brings a fantastically appropriate feminine touch to the role and folks skeptical of Carvel’s undertaking eat their words by the end of the show.

The tambour of his voice is mind-boggling: it sounds as if it is not a man trying to speak in his falsetto to sound like a woman but a woman who speaks in a lower-than-normal register. While he has help from the costume, make-up and wig department, Carvel truly embodies this character all the way down to his fingertips. Literally. His almost dainty hand movements and gesticulations were certainly noticed and well received. His performance completely erases any doubt that a gender-bending role can be used as more than a gimmick.

Miss Trunchbull is not comparable to Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. That role was written for a man and any portrayal of her is generally a man’s voice and mannerisms dressed up in woman’s clothing. A woman on the other hand, could very well portray Miss Trunchbull. If you haven’t read the program, you might even think Carvel was indeed a woman (albeit a very masculine one).

Although he is a first-time Tony nominee, Carvel is familiar to the award-winning process. He won an Olivier Award for his portrayal of the same character in London. In fact, the critical acclaim he received propelled him into taking the role to Broadway. But long before his days in skorts and ribbon dances, Carvel also received acclaim and an Olivier Award nomination for his performance of Leo Frank in Parade.  You might have also seen him as Bamatabois (the guy Fantine refuses and “abuses”) in the 2012 Les Miserables film.

On a scale of “He doesn’t stand a chance” to “He doesn’t even need to wait for them to announce his name before he walks onstage to claim his victory”, I give him a solid “He will probably get to show off his tuxedo!” on Tony Awards night.

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