REVIEW ROUNDUP: Matthew Warchus-Directed Matilda Musical Opens at the Royal Shakespeare Company
Based on Roald Dahl's 1988 children's novel, the show has a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. The central character is a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers. She's unloved by her parents but impresses her schoolteacher and, over the course of her first term at school, teacher and pupil have a profound effect on each other's lives.
The company features Adrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, and Kerry Ingram, alternating the title role, along with Lauren Ward (Miss Honey), Bertie Carvel (Miss Trunchbull), Paul Kaye (Mr. Wormwood), Josie Walker (Mrs Wormwood), and Peter Howe (Michael).
The creative team includes Rob Howell (production design), Hugh Vanstone (lighting design), Simon Baker (sound design), and Paul Kieve (illusions).
A number of the daily papers have printed their reviews, as have several of the major U.K. theater websites and critics are unanimous in their praise of the piece, Warchus' production, and the company, particularly Kerry Ingram, who was performing in the title role when a majority of the critics saw the show.
Among the reviews are:
Matilda, Courtyard Theatre, review
"I turned up to the RSC's new musical version of Roald Dahl's Matilda expecting a pretty classy children's show. What I wasn't anticipating was the best British musical since Billy Elliot and a smash hit that will surely be the toast of the West End once its run in Stratford is over."
"Director Matthew Warchus, now earns forgiveness for directing the torture that was the musical version of Lord of the Rings. He brings the show to life with a buzzing vitality that proves irresistible.
"Peter Darling, responsible for the dance routines in Billy Elliot, is every bit as inventive here, choreographing school-kid rebellions and sadistic gym routines with panache."
Matilda - review
"Tim Minchin's ebullient music and lyrics add to the gaiety of the show while inevitably shifting the focus at times away from Matilda: we get, for instance, an extended interlude in which Matilda's mum and her tight-trousered partner do a florid Latinate number that could easily fit into Strictly Come Dancing. But Kerry Ingram (one of three children playing Matilda) always draws the attention back to the heroine through her awesome mix of solemnity, vulnerability and singing talent: Ingram makes you like a character who, with her ability to solve mathematical puzzles and devour everything from Dickens to Dostoevesky, could easily seem priggish."
"...the real success of the show, I suspect, lies in the fact it has something for everyone. Child spectators will relish its picture of adult insensitivity and injustice while adults will enjoy a display of showbiz expertise that may not be pure Dahl but that is nevertheless wholly delightful."
Matilda, a Musical
"A quarter of a century ago, the RSC co-produced Les Miserables, which has turned into the West End's longest-ever running musical and a worldwide hit. Now, via an unfortunate detour with Carrie, one of the most notorious Broadway flops when they transferred it from Stratford to New York, they've finally hit the musical jackpot again."
"...It refills the stock of moppet musicals - from Oliver! and Annie to Billy Elliot - and gives it a giddy and invigorating burst of new life, thanks to the jaunty, tuneful wit of Aussie comedian and composer Tim Minchin's songs, and a production by Matthew Warchus that has bite, bile and some brilliance. The tone and style is somewhere between Warchus' own staging of Our House and a kids' version of Spring Awakening."
"But to focus too much on the technical aspects of the production - excellent as they are - would be to miss the point. What really makes this show jaw-droppingly good - and make no mistake about it, that's what it is - is the fabulous script and score, the vibrantly created cast of characters, and Roald Dahl's story which is told through and by them."
"With strong appeal for younger audience members, this is a perfect festive family show, but it would be a mistake to regard it as something just for the kids: I defy the hardest-bitten cynic to watch it and not come away grinning - and probably having wiped away the odd surreptitious tear. It will be a travesty if the production doesn't ultimately transfer to an extended London run."