Matilda the Musical … alphabetically perfect

MUSIC OWL AWARDS3rd – lyrics; 4th – book or play; 4th – performance (Bertie Carvel); 1st – for family occasions; 4th – staging; 5th – song (School Song)

When I went: 11 November 2011 and 13 February 2016

Music Owl Hoot rating: 5/5

Location: Cambridge Theatre, London

Performers: 2011: Josie Griffiths (Matilda), Bertie Carvel (Trunchbull), Paul Kaye (Mr Wormwood); 2016: Michael Begley (Mr Wormwood), Craig Els (Trunchbull), Miria Parvin (Miss Honey), Rebecca Thornhill (Mrs Wormwood), Dora Yolland (Lavender), Evie Hone (Matilda)

Creative team: Dennis Kelly (book), Tim Minchin (music and lyrics), Roald Dahl (novel), Peter Darling (choreography), Matthew Warchus (director)

Approximate price: £60 then £120

Special points: Wit and heart

Best bit: School Song

If I could change one thing: A little less cheesiness around the Miss Honey character


The musical:

Matilda is one of Roald Dahl’s best loved novels, and for good reason: it has a brilliant, ill-treated heroine, with magic powers, comedically terrible parents, a sympathetic teacher and a great villain in the character of Miss Trunchbull. I don’t think there are many children who read it without wishing they were telepathic too, and it even has the side-effect of promoting reading.

With that background, Tim Minchin had a mammoth task in making this musical version of the story, but happily he not only succeeded but exceeded everyone’s expectations to the point where Matilda the Musical not only features some brilliant, witty songs but also manages to keep all the heart of the book.

School Song is a masterclass in marrying staging to the alphabet-stretching lyrics, but there are plenty of other musical highlights including Naughty, The Hammer, When I Grow Up and Revolting Children.

Due to the child actors and youthful sense of fun underneath some more adult moments, this is a great musical to see with the whole family.

These performances:

Matthew Warchus’ direction and Peter Darling’s choreography make the most of the small Cambridge Theatre stage, with gymnastics, children-throwing, and the library scenes transforming into the circuses of Matilda’s imagination.

Both the Matildas I saw (Josie Griffiths and Evie Hone) were outstanding, and Bertie Carvel, who originated the role of Miss Trunchbull, was brilliantly funny with the right amount of menace. Paul Kaye and Michael Begley were both strong Mr Wormwoods and Rebecca Thornhill brought a lot of humour to her Mrs Wormwood in the 2016 performance.

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