Why Matilda the Musical is one of the West End’s most popular shows
Originally produced by the RSC as their 2010 family Christmas play, Matilda the Musical has been running in the West End since 2011. In an industry of jukebox musicals perhaps what keeps drawing audiences to this show is Tim Minchin’s original witty and wonderful songs and the fact that Dennis Kelly’s adaptation doesn’t shy away from the dark themes explored in Roald Dahl’s original story. And, with, a leading character who has special telekinetic powers, it all comes with the irresistible promise of stage magic and miracles that will happen before your eyes.
Because Matilda is a likeable character
Matilda is a little girl who keeps changing and growing, a genius who is vulnerable, kind and eager to discover as much as she can about the world, taking her readers away with her on her adventures. Through his leading lady Dahl champions the joys of reading and imagination, and introduces young readers to stories and characters from around the globe. Completely neglected by her TV-obsessed family (the song Telly in the musical is one of the most amusing) she retains her compassion and sparkle. She’s a quick thinker and very creative when it comes to teaching adults a lesson for bad behaviour. Of course, Dahl gives his main character a great antagonist, an eccentric headmistress with an unhealthy aversion to children, who she defeats in a humorous and clever way. But, in the end, Matilda decides the right thing to do is to give up her telekinetic powers, once the grown-ups have been put in their place.
Because Roald Dahl is one of Britain’s most popular novelists
Dahl wrote almost 20 books for children, as well as poetry, short stories, non-fiction and novels for adults: he was very disciplined as a writer and a stickler for routine, which is perhaps why his output is so great. Like the Bard himself, Dahl created a fantastic selection of words, most of them for his Big Friendly Giant in The BFG. Matilda is not the only one of the author’s published works to be adapted into a stage musical, with Sam Mendes’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also offering audiences the chance to “step into a world of pure imagination”, just as Dahl intended readers to do with the original novels.
Because Last year was the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth
Every year, libraries and schools across the country celebrate Roald Dahl Day on the 13th September, dressing up as favourite characters and putting on shows. On the anniversary of the author’s birth last September, the Oxford English Dictionary revised and added a number of the writer’s invented words to its books, inlcuding “frightsome”, “scrummy”, “scrumptious”, “splendiferous”, and “splendiferousness”, along with “Dahlesque”. They also published a Roald Dahl Dictionary complete with Quentin Blake illustrations in May 2016.
Because there was a Hollywood movie
Danny Devito’s 1996 film adaptation of the novel was a frantic and colourful feast of mischief, family mystery and food fights and saw Pam Ferris in one of her nastiest and most revolting cinematic roles. However, giving young and not-so-young audiences the chance to see Dahl’s Reader of Books and his other ingeniously drawn characters come to life on stage – including the consistently brilliantly cast Trunchbull, who is the spitting image of Quentin Blakes’s illustrations – has certainly proved to be more successful, particularly in the case of Matilda the Musical, which has confirmed itself to be a show of genius.
The editorial unit
Matilda the Musical is at Cambridge Theatre.