This musical is based on Roald Dahl’s story of an exceptional young girl born into a rather strange and weird family, which think of the telly as an educational tool and are freaked out by her reading books.
Her father (Steven Furst) is a dodgy used car salesman in the process of doing a deal with the Russia mafia, and her mother (Annette McLaughlin) is more consumed with her ballroom dancing than parenting. Things get worse for her when she starts at the local school which is run more like a correctional facility by the evil hammer throwing Mrs Trunchbull (David Leonard), who thinks that children are maggots. Despite the bad hand she has been dealt, Matilda decides that things have to change. To quote her:
“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.
Just because I find myself in this story,
it doesn't mean that everything is written for me.
If I think the ending is fixed already,
I might as well be saying I think that it's OK,
and that's not right!”
Normally, I avoid shows with children in them like the plague; there always seems to be a requirement to lavish praise on them just because they are children. However, in this show, they are actors, and damned fine ones, worthy of the Olivier awards they got in 2012 *. Matthew Warchus deserves full credit for his direction and bringing out some of the best acting performances I have seen in a long time, and Tim Minchin’s songs perfectly complement the story and are coupled with some great dance routines.
All that is great from an adult’s perspective, but what would a seven-year-old child think? Thankfully, my young niece was sitting next to me and whilst at times was scared (I have grab marks on my arm) absolutely loved it and could not take her eyes off the stage. I have had the same feedback from many others that have taken kids of all ages – the show makes you laugh, cry, and leaves you feeling great.
This is the best show in London, and will without any doubt be a sell out and multi-Tony-award winner when it opens on Broadway this coming March.
* The Olivier awards were won by the previous cast, but these guys are just as good. Furthermore, the role of Mrs Trunchbull has in no way be compromised by the departure of Bertie Carvel, who will be reprising the role on Broadway.
Second Degree paid for his own ticket and that for his niece. They are still negotiating on the program he brought her. (How ethical is it to take money from a seven year old?)