There is one type of story that both kids and adults will relate to in equal measure – a plucky young child standing up to a bully. When you add in a rousing score and incredible talent you end up with Matilda the Musical, a stunning piece of live theatre that delights both young and old.
Although I’d seen the film, I’d never heard the music from the live show, so had no expectation at all. I felt one or two of the first numbers were a little shaky, but within minutes it was off and running and I was captivated.
A well crafted musical score with some slick choreography gave Matilda a professional edge and it’s well-defined characterisations meant we connected to the show on a very visceral level. In many ways, Matilda is a fairy tale – a young heroine taking on evil forces. And like many a fairy tale, this one had some very dark themes: betrayal, murder, bullying, child abuse and revenge. The characters are in many ways caricatures that represent quintessential human archetypes and the baddies, in particular, behave with pantomime like villainy. I suspect this is deliberate and it works – the audience reacts with primal emotions to the story which leads to a very satisfying experience.
At the heart of the show is a form of slapstick but it is done with energy and professionalism and the result is spectacular.
The adult performers were exquisite to watch, especially James Millar who played Miss Trunchbull to perfection – his comic timing and beautifully over the top theatrics meant one almost felt affection for this truly beastly headmistress.
But what really took this musical from being great to truly magnificent were the kids. They were impressively good with a perfect balance of youthful innocence, energy, and comedic instincts.
On opening night the role of Matilda was played flawlessly by Izellah Connelly. With a pitch perfect voice and pre-possessing acting style, she earned a standing ovation when she took her bow. I see a lot of shows but this was the first time ever I’ve seen such a spontaneous outpouring of emotion from an audience at a curtain call. As far as I could tell, every person was standing in the theatre and the audience erupted the moment she appeared.
For a truly great night of live theatre, Matilda the Musical should not be missed!
MATILDA THE MUSICAL
24th August – 22nd October 2017