Review: Matilda the Musical @ Cambridge Theatre



The show is celebrating its third year and has now hit Broadway.

By Jonathon Ferrari

Celebrating its third anniversary this year, the Olivier Award-winning West End show Matilda the Musical still stands strong as a must see for families and adults alike.

Currently showing at the Cambridge Theatre and now on Broadway after its US premiere in April, this musical has audiences laughing, crying and singing along, all at the same time.

The story, based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, follows the life of the underappreciated but incredibly bright Matilda Wormwood, a 6-year-old with a hunger for reading in a world that loves television.

When her self-centred parents finally give her the chance to attend school, she meets the biggest bully of them all, Miss Trunchbull, the sadistic child-hating headmistress. Matilda may be quiet, but her book-smart wit and predetermined actions bring the school together in the loudest revolution of them all against the once Olympic hammer-throwing headmistress.

The show grabs you right from the outset, opening with a musical rendition performed by spoilt children at a birthday party singing ‘my mummy thinks I’m a miracle’. Tim Minchin’s music sparkles with wit and energy that pays tribute to Roald Dahl’s much-loved novel, bringing a shining light to, at times, a somewhat sad story. The spotlight song, When I Grow Up, has quickly become a keen favourite among the show’s older following.

“I think that whole song was, for me, about tugging at the heartstrings of the adults to rub in their faces how far they’ve strayed from what they thought they would be when they were grown-ups,” said Tim Minchin in a recent interview.

“It’s quite a light-hearted song, but the reason adults get teary about it is because of that lyric, ‘When I’m older I’m going to know everything’.”

The book, written by Dennis Kelly, subtly complements the music, and with direction from Matthew Warchus, the audience becomes familiar with every character, including the ensemble of children that make up the revolting school. Alongside the kids is David Leonard who plays Miss Trunchbull with her hunchbacked and overbearing posture.

David’s characterisation of the unruly head teacher was the starring moment of the whole show, tearing the audience into fits of laughter with his precise timing of each crucial word that left his lips.

There are some clear differences between the original novel, the 1996 blockbuster film, and this musical. Dennis Kelly said the pressure of living up to the novel can get to him a bit, but he can’t really worry about things like that.

Dennis Kelly said in an interview: “To worship the novel too much is to disrespect it, because you’re not doing your job properly.”

With no signs of slowing down, Matilda the Musical seems to be here to stay and celebrate a few more anniversaries. Last month, Tim Minchin announced the show will be going on tour across the US, just two months after its arrival in New York. If the performance remains as bold and bright as it is today, the story of this precocious youngster is set to wow parents and inspire children for a long while to come.

If you would like any more information, visit or call the Royal Shakespeare Company ticket hotline on 0844 8001110.

Photo courtesy of leobard, via Flikr, with thanks.

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