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Oct 22nd, 2015
Best bit: As an adult I found Craig Els' 'drag' portrayal of Miss Trunchbull delightful, but did wonder if some of the very young audience members wouldn't have found his ferocity a bit frightening
Any boring bits? The production is a more condensed version of the story than the book and though the second act scene in Miss Honey's cottage is a bit slower than the rest of the show, it moves swiftly onto more energetic scenes to keep young (and some older) audience members engaged
Who would like it? Aside from Roald Dahl fans (who will be in heaven), those with young children will enjoy it just as much as their offspring, as will audiences with a sense of humour who like colourful, creative musicals
Who wouldn't like it? Those looking for a more serious piece of theatre or who might find it frustrating watching amongst small children
Morning after effect: Wanting to call people names like 'snivelling toad' and 'crusty maggot'
Verdict: We give it five out of five stars
I'm afraid it's true, the kids are revolting - but don't be too alarmed, we mean 100% revolution and 0% revulsion. The school-aged portion of Matilda's cast are causing a revolution in musical theatre, singing and dancing their way to West End stardom with the cry that incredible things can indeed come in very, very small packages. In the case of one young star, Lizzie Wells (who played Matilda on the night I attended), her confidence and professionalism was truly impressive, and her portrayal of Matilda felt genuine from the happy moments right through to the sad.
Musicals like Matilda that draw in old and young audiences in equal measure aren't uncommon, the rare thing is finding one that has real sticking power and the ability to present a real threat to their much more serious theatre cousins like Les Mis and Chicago, where you'll find nary an utterance even close to 'snot ball' or 'ignorant little slug'. Unlike its grown-up relatives, Matilda is child-like in every sense of the word - and a complete delight.
Loud, colourful, and full of ridiculous expressions and playground jokes, from its set through to the dancing, Matilda is one of the most well carried out book-to-stage transitions I have seen, and perfectly captures the imagination and creativity of its original author, Roald Dahl. You'll find yourself seated amongst older theatregoers as well as school children, with doting parents ferrying their young princes and princesses to the loo every other scene in the dark-but-dazzled auditorium.
As a word of warning to potential parental patrons, I would be inclined to use your own judgement on whether or not your child would enjoy the production purely because some scenes can be very, very loud with flashing lights and a no-holds-barred portrayal of the evil Miss Trunchbull. Though Craige Els' characterisation of the horrid headmistress was to me one of the best parts of the production, the little boy sitting next to me (who must have been no older than seven year) covered his eyes during some of these scenes.
Musically, Tim Minchin's score is every bit as enjoyable as the Tony and Olivier Awards imply, with the pinnacle of the production's songbook, Revolting Children, being one of those tunes you'll find yourself singing along to all the way home. And hopefully a strong indication of what is to come in his future book-to-Broadway projects, starting with the Old Vic's Groundhog Day in Spring 2016.
Insider's Tip: Make sure you stick around during interval to enjoy the delightfully dreadful Mr Wormwood's quick 'stand-up' gig, though if you're in the front row you may prefer to linger at the back until he is done!
Tuesday 22nd September 2015
Cambridge Theatre, London
Find me on Twitter: @_londontheatre_
View our show pages for more information about Matilda The Musical, Cambridge Theatre.
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