Thursday, June 21, 2012

'Matilda the Musical' - the one everyone's talking about

Of course I could not avoid seeing this one. It is the one all of London is buzzing about at the moment and it has received so many awards that surely it must be special somehow. Besides, Matilda was one of the books I used to love when I was younger so I was intrigued to see what they had done with it.

Matilda the Musical at Cambridge Theatre, London
Performance: Sunday 3rd June 2012 at 15:00
Seat: 3rd row Dress Circle
Cast included: Bertie Carvel (Miss Trunchbull), Haley Flaherty (Miss Honey), Melanie La Barrie (Mrs Phelps), Steve Furst (Mr Wormwood), Lucy Thatcher (Mrs Wormwood, u/s) and Hayley Canham as Matilda

The plot of the book had been slightly altered for the stage show. The key moments, the sections which I remember most vividly from reading the book such as Bruce Bogtrotter and the chocolate cake and Matilda tilting a glass of water with her eyes, were still there. However, the musical focused more heavily on Matilda's love for books and reading and on her relationship with Mrs Phelps, the librarian. And, without giving the ending away, I must say they had tied the whole thing together very nicely in my opinion.

The child actors were absolutely incredible, all of them. They delivered every song and every dance routine with confidence and they really acted their heart out. Haley Flaherty was lovely as Miss Honey. Likable and gentle, not one to stand up for herself - exactly as she is in the book. However, if there was one performance that stood out above all the others, that was Bertie Carvel's portrayal of Miss Trunchbull. It was incredible beyond words: funny but threatening at the same time. Having a male perform the part in the first place was definitely the right decision as it would be hard to find a female to match the height and the physique of the character (Miss Trunchbull was made to look very similar to Quentin Blake's illustrations in the book). 

Another honourable mention goes to Tim Minchin's hilarious lyrics. The music is a little different to what I expectedl and I have to say I was not too keen on it on the first couple of listens but eventually it started growing on me too. I have had a few Finnish friends say that they did not like the show much because they did not understand the show at all and I can see where they come from. There is a lot of humour hidden into the dialogue and the lyrics of the songs (many of the songs are very wordy) plus into the characters' ways of speaking so for someone whose native language is not English, this may not be the easiest musical to understand.
Matilda is a very British show and I am intrigued to see how it does on Broadway once it gets there. If the general British public's reception is anything to go by, Matilda will be running in the West End for quite while.
I also enjoyed the very book-heavy staging (I mean there were literally books everywhere: attached to the ceiling etc.) and the way in which they convincingly conducted the chocolate cake scene. Oh, and the choreography with the swings was lovely! 

A video of the Matildas performing the song Naughty from the musical at this year's Olivier Awards ceremony:

If you love Roald Dahl's Matilda, I do recommend seeing this. It is different to the book so don't spoil your visit by intentionally attempting to compare the two but it is a lovely show and it is child-friendly :)
Official website:

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