Theatre Review: Matilda the Musical

Roald Dahl‘s Matilda is a children’s book many of us loved when we were younger; I know I, for one, was a huge fan. For those who aren’t familiar, the story follows a young girl who is intelligible beyond her years yet is born into an unappreciative, selfish family and is constantly ignored or put down by them. The girl suffers similar treatment from her school’s headmistress and, thus, is never truly recognised for her incredible academic abilities or her creative story-telling talent. Yes, the story might sound dire and dreary right now, but we promise there are a lot more comedic and entertaining aspects to it than you’re currently thinking.

Matilda the Musical is a relatively new theatre production that has been showing around the UK since 2011 and now, Australia is lucky enough to have the show tour its capital cities. Having been adapted by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by comedian Tim Minchin, Matilda the Musical is nothing short of bodacious, hilarious and inherently over-the-top; true broadway at its finest. We headed over to Adelaide Festival Centre to watch the show on a chilly Tuesday evening, prepared for a song-filled night of fun.

The children actors are undoubtedly full of talent, making us wonder how they can be so disciplined at such a very young age and why we were were never that well-behaved! Each of them executes their character with enthusiasm and flair, particularly the main character, Matilda. One of our favourites is the tubby Bruce who gets up on his desk and belts out a number when you least expect it, showing control in his song voice and a few fabulous dance moves along the way.

The adults are even funnier, particularly the headmistress Ms Trunchbull who is, in fact, played by a man. The costume is perfectly outrageous, creating a top-heavy figure squeezed into a dress, featuring a ridiculous-sized bosom with a teeny-tiny lower half and skinny, white legs. James Millar – the actor behind Ms Trunchbull – plays her character with precision and a seemingly awkward elegance (who knew that could be possible?) as he leaps and twirls around on stage in attempt to show the feminine side to an otherwise oaf-ish, man-like (literally) character. The aged, warty and mole-ey make-up on an oh-so animated face full of funny facial expressions only adds to the hilarity of it all.

I can’t seem to fault this production as it combines comedy, theatrics and music together seamlessly, following an engaging and nostalgic plot. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the whole thing; however, I would note that, had I not been so close to the story when I was younger, I might not have chosen to see Matilda the Musical as an adult otherwise. The performance is great for adults and children alike, but there is no doubt that it has been produced primarily for an audience of those who grew up with it and for children/families. That’s not to say an adult who isn’t familiar with the story won’t enjoy it, it may just not have the same warm, nostalgic effect.



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