Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda is a triumph
I have loved Matilda for a long time. A Roald Dahl überfan, I spent many hours of my childhood staring hard at objects in the hope that I too would share her telekinetic superpowers. So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I went off to see writer Dennis Kelly and comedian Tim Minchin’s musical adaptation of the classic children’s book.
The trepidation was completely unnecessary however; as before the first act had ended I had already decided that it was the best musical I had ever seen, and one that wonderfully captures the humour, spirit and heart of Dahl’s twisted tale.
The story of Matilda Wormwood, a child genius and book worm who is unwanted by her vile, stupid, television-living parents, Cleo Demetriou (one of four girls cast) is perfect for the lead role: with fantastic vocal ability she managed to find the right balance between frustration and bravery in Matilda’s transition from bullied outsider to beloved hero.
Mixing clever and silly dialogue with hysterical and heartbreaking songs (I defy anyone not to feel tears stirring during When I Grow Up, a beautiful number about the expectations and realities of grown-up life) the cast, both young and old, are marvellous.
Many of the cast have stayed on from last year’s RSC run and whilst Paul Kaye is a wonderful Mr Wormwood it is Bertie Carvel, as the demon headmistress Miss Trunchball, who really steals the show. The perfect combination of brutish evil and maliciousness, Carvel brings one of Dahl’s most odious characters to life effortlessly and with great comedic effect. From an athletic dance routine set in gym class to his liberal use of terrifying one-word put downs he brilliantly captures the Trunchbull of my own imagination.
A fantastic production that shows off the silliness of Dahl’s original story (children are “maggots” and “twits” with “cakeholes” that should be shut), Matilda The Musical is full of show-stopping songs, hilarious jokes and moments of pure tenderness: a real gem.
Matilda The Musical is playing now at the Cambridge Theatre in London – find more information here. Photos by Manuel Harlan.