Monday, 5 December 2011

Theatre review: Matilda the Musical

Synopsis: Roald Dahl's much-loved story bursts into life on stage in this brand new musical version by Dennis Kelly and award-winning musician and comedian Tim Minchin.

Cast: The role of Matilda is shared by: Eleanor Worthington Cox, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram and Sophia Kiely.

Adult actors: Bertie Carvel (Miss Trunchbull), Paul Kaye (Mr Wormwood), Josie Walker (Mrs Wormwood), Lauren Ward (Miss Honey), Marc Antolin, Verity Bentham, Peter Howe, Michael Kent, Melanie La Barrie, Matthew Malthouse, Alastair Parker, Nick Searle, Emily Shaw, Matthew Clark, Leanne Pinder, Rachel Moran, Lucy Thatcher, Tim Walton and Gary Watson.

The three teams of eight young performers who recreate the roles of Bruce, Lavender, Amanda, Nigel, Eric and the other pupils at Crunchem Hall Primary School are: Thomas Atkinson, Jake Bailey, James Beesley, Ruby Bridle, Oonagh Cox, Jemima Eaton, Alicia Gould, Zachary Harris, Callum Henderson, Fleur Houdijk, Jamie Kaye, William Keeler, Lily Laight, Katie Lee, Isobelle Molloy, Jemima Morgan, Toby Murray, Alfie Manser, Lucy May Pollard, Annabel Parsons, Ellie Simons, Louis Suc, Jaydon Vijn and Ted Wilson.

Rating:


Matilda the Musical is a fantastic production for young and old alike; a rare example showing that it is indeed possible for a show that is not a Broadway transfer or re-imagination of an old classic to sweep audiences of their feet with a funny and clever book and music. Of the dozens of shows I've had the privilege to see this year this one was undoubtedly my favourite and the strongest contender to stick around in the West End for many years to come.

Who doesn't know the classic story by Roald Dahl? An exceptionally gifted young girl with a love for reading has the misfortune to grow up with two parents that think her a nuisance, and instead of appreciating the genius in their child they want her to watch more "telly". When the eagerly anticipated first day of school finally arrives Matilda finds friendship and encouragement in the shape of her kind teacher miss Honey, but she also comes across someone possibly more evil than her parents: the terrorising headmistress of the school, Miss Trunchbull.

The musical is a wonderful adaptation from the novel with a fantastic book by Dennis Kelly and catchy music by Australian comedian Tim Minchin. It stays very true to the source material with one major exception: Matilda's love for reading has been extended into a love for stories, which in all fairness works much better in a theatre environment than having a little girl hide behind a book for the duration of the show. Don't worry, there's still plenty of reading involved and one major storyline in fact takes place in the library, but broadening the theme to "stories" opens up more opportunities for the stage, as well as the witty play with words both the songs and scripted text are gloriously filled with. A particularly good example of this is School Song, which cleverly plays with the alphabet; both in the lyrics and set design for the scene.

The child actors are just astonishing. The night I saw the show Sophia was on as Matilda and she simply was Matilda. She has a large amount of difficult lines and lyrics, but she makes them seem easy, which is very admirable for such a young actress. The other children were fabulous too; their singing, acting and tight dancing routines were all impressive. The adult cast are also fantastic, but are almost overshadowed by the children. However, special mention to Bertie Carvel who's managed to make Miss Trunchbull suitably terrifying and masculine whilst still putting a certain amount of feminine characteristics into his portrayal of the character (which is particularly noticeable during the songs).

There is also plenty of mischief amongst the kids to prevent the show from becoming too focused on the horrors that Miss Trunchbull unleashes on the children. Mischief, which undoubtedly will appeal to younger audiences. The moral they can take away from the story is that there is nothing wrong with being a little bit naughty every once in a while, which is outlined in the inspiring lyrics from the song Naughty that runs as a theme throughout the show:

Just because you find that life's not fair, it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
Nothing will change.

Even if you're little you can do a lot, you
Mustn't let a little thing like little stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying
You think that it's ok
And that's not right
You have to put it right.

Nobody but me is gonna put it right for me,
Nobody but me is gonna change my story,
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.



Photo by Manuel Harlan.



Theatre: Cambridge Theatre, 32-34 Earlham Street, London, WC2 9HU.

Ticket info: Matilda is currently taking bookings until October 2012. Ticket prices: £62.50, £52.50, £42.50, £29.50, £25, £20. For those aged 16 to 25 there are 8 tickets reserved for every performance for £5. Available on the day of performance in person from 10am at the Cambridge Theatre Box Office. Proof of age ID will be required.

Links: Official website - Book tickets - RSC shop

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