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The Miracle of MATILDA: Rewind to 2013 and Remember the Broadway Reviews!


Matilda the Musical

Come January 2017, the miracle that has been MATILDA on Broadway will play its final performance at the Shubert Theatre, after a whopping 37 previews and 1,555 regular performances. Opening on April 11, 2013, Matilda quickly swept Broadway off its feet with a story of heart, courage and loving who you are.

Matilda tells the story of an extraordinary girl, Matilda, with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind whose talents are constantly belittled by her cruel parents and headmistress. Dreaming of a better life for herself, she dares to take a stand against these oppressive forces and takes her destiny into her own hands. The hit musical first made its appearance in London's West End. The original London production won a record-breaking 7 Olivier Awards including Best Musical. On Broadway, Matilda was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2013. It went onto earn Tony Awards for Best Lighting Design, Best Book and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Gabriel Ebert.

As BroadwayWorld prepares to say goodbye to this beautiful production, we're rewinding to 2013 to take a look back at the show's remarkable reviews!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "Matilda the Musical," the London import that opened on Thursday night, is the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain...As directed by Matthew Warchus, with a bright, efficient book by Dennis Kelly and addictive songs by Tim Minchin, "Matilda" is as much an edge-of-the-seats nail biter as a season-finale episode of "Homeland."...Above all it's an exhilarating tale of empowerment, as told from the perspective of the most powerless group of all. I mean little children..."Matilda" captures the particular dread that runs like an icy rivulet through even the happiest childhoods...You just have to use your imagination and think everything through carefully, so it's all of a piece. That's what the creators of "Matilda" have done. Such strategy should be obvious. But in the current landscape of Broadway it's applied rarely enough to make this show feel truly revolutionary.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The English hit "Matilda," which opened Thursday at Shubert Theatre, is a witty musical adaptation of the beloved novel by Roald Dahl and is true to his bleak vision of childhood as a savage battleground. The musical arrives in New York with plenty of hype and awards, and it mostly delivers a thrilling blast of nasty fun, even if it's a bit swollen and in need of some fine-tuning. It also has come with perhaps its most grotesque masterstroke: Bertie Carvel as the fearsome cross-dressing school headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: With a delectably clever score by Tim Minchin and a slyly evocative book by Dennis Kelly, the musical, minted by the Royal Shakespeare Company and adapted from the story by Roald Dahl (of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" fame), is distinguished by its wonderful look and a caliber of choreography for young people you rarely ever experience....if Milly Shapiro's accomplished, confident, well-sung Matilda sets the standard, then any one of this pint-size quartet will make you - and any other grown-up or child who happens to tag along - happy to be a ticket holder....It's as immersive and strangely moving - for adults, surely - as any new musical to come along in a while. Minchin, Kelly, Warchus and company have worked an incandescent sort of magic in turning a Broadway theater into a Dahl's house.

Richard Zoglin, Time Magazine: The real miracle, though, is not Matilda, but Matilda, the wondrous new musical from London that has just arrived on Broadway. It would be easy to call it the best British musical since Billy Elliot, but that, I'm afraid, would be underselling it. You have to go back to The Lion King to find a show with as much invention, spirit and genre-redefining verve. After plugging through years of slick but workmanlike musicals, crowd-pleasing song cycles and formulaic spirit-lifters (latest example: Kinky Boots), Matilda seems to clear away the deadwood and announce a fresh start for the Broadway musical.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Multi-layered vocals go with the gobstopping staging by director Matthew Warchus ("God of Carnage," "Ghost"). There are laser beams, trampolines and confetti cannons. The production design is an eyeful, thanks to Rob Howell's clever costumes and scenery that's crammed sky-high with Scrabble tiles, blocks and books. Hugh Vanstone lights it with style.

Erik Haagensen, Backstage: The Royal Shakespeare Company's musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda" rushes at you from the stage of the Shubert Theatre-often literally-with the relentlessness of a high-speed rail train. Director Matthew Warchus' meticulously calculated production offers coup after coup de théâtre as it tells Dahl's fantastical tale of a 5-year-old girl who's a genius, the idiot family that mistreats her, the sadistic headmistress who terrorizes her, and the loving teacher who comes to her aid. The show is strenuously entertaining, as dark as it is funny, and just a tad cold.

David Cote, Time Out NY: Happily, Matilda follows its diminutive hero's lead: It maintains a high level of cheeky mischief while hitting the requisite sentimental notes and a refreshing antiauthoritarian message...Minchin's score is a deft blend of Britpop, show tunes and Danny Elfman with clever (sometimes overly winking) lyrics that balance subversion with simple truths...Public-school sadism, horrid parents, men in drag: Needless to say, this material presses a lot of buttons in the English psyche, hence its runaway success across the pond. And while the show has been expertly assembled to balance sweet, sour, acidic and salty on the music-theater palate, one wonders if it's too English for Broadway audiences.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Any show that arrives from London fueled by as much critical and commercial fanfare asMatilda can hardly be called a surprise. Yet the capacity for constant surprise, and an almost overwhelming sense of wonder at the magic of storytelling - and by extension, stagecraft - is central to the experience of this dazzlingly inventive musical. Capturing the unique flavor of Roald Dahl's classic 1988 children's novel, this funhouse fairy tale is by turns riotous and poignant, grotesque and menacing, its campy comic exaggeration equaled only by its transporting emotional power. I can't wait to see it again.

Matt Windman, AM New York: The new Broadway musical "Matilda," based on Roald Dahl's 1988 children's fantasy novel, was originally conceived by the Royal Shakespeare Company as family-friendly Christmastime entertainment, not unlike the cheesy and overly sentimental shows that flood New York each holiday season. But it turned out to be an incredibly intelligent, heartfelt and entertaining work that went on to achieve critical and popular success in London and now arrives on Broadway like a white knight sent to rescue a disappointing season for new musicals...Singer-songwriter Tim Minchin's unique and unpredictable score is as character-sensitive and penetrating as it is melodic and memorable.

Gordon Cox, Variety: No one saw it coming. A debuting musical theater team adapting a Roald Dahl children's story about an unhappy girl whose life is saved by the magic of books? True, helmer Matthew Warchus ("God of Carnage") was aboard, but his tuner credits include "Lord of the Rings" and "Ghost." Yet "Matilda" turns out to be an explosion of joy, the most exhilarating and flat-out best musical since "Billy Elliot."..."Matilda" comes with a ready-made audience via generations who have feasted upon the original story. But this transcends its source. As with "Billy Elliot," having the narrative led by the title character and numerous other children necessitates expensive multiple casts. But "Matilda" is so riotously enjoyable that if the figures can be made to work, its future could be limitless.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: It was Dahl who invented Matilda, the spunky, over-achieving, proto-feminist, grrl-power heroine of what is far and away the best new musical of the Broadway season, indeed one of the best family-oriented shows of any season, and a work of musical theater that feels like a grand cultural experience..."Matilda," which features a faithfully wrought and happily insouciant book by Dennis Kelly and that score, that remarkably rich, occasionally anthemic score by Minchin, has arrived on Broadway with a formidable West End pedigree. One could nip at "Matilda's" heels: the Broadway production, directed with great skill and a determined lack of sentimentality by Matthew Warchus, is a tad cool to the touch in spots...But that is about the only reasonable complaint. Warchus' superb cast is remarkably deep in craft and talent.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: The U.K.-based Matilda the Musical (***½ out of four stars), which opened Thursday at the Shubert Theatre, is the smartest musical to arrive on Broadway in years - and its creators never let you forget that. There's a distinctly British self-consciousness to acclaimed playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian/musician Tim Minchin's adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's novel, a critical and commercial smash in London.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: For once, you can believe the hype. A treat for ears and eyes, brain and heart, the glorious "Matilda" has it all - plus lasers!

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: The wonder begins with the witty and hyper-literate score by Australian songwriter Tim Minchin, who has crafted several potential earworms...A word about Matilda: Milly Shapiro, a bright-eyed girl who conveys a fine sense of spunk and righteous indignation, played the title role admirably at the performance I attended. But I have no idea why Shapiro alternates with three other girls - Sophia Gennusa, Oona, Laurence, and Bailey Ryon - since the part seems significantly less demanding than the dance-heavy lead in Billy Elliot...Even gold-star students fall short of perfection, and the same is true of Matilda...On the other hand, even when you fail to pick up a well-turned phrase or eye-rolling pun, you will probably find yourself responding like a just-tucked-in child at bedtime. A-

Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: But Rob Howell's glistening, Scrabble-tile set! And director Matthew Warchus's high-energy, inventive stagecraft! And Bertie Carvel in drag as the nastily imposing headmistress, Miss Trunchbull! When you have such attributes you can afford to force audiences to lean forward a bit. The producers of this $16m transatlantic transplant, which was hatched by the Royal Shakespeare Company, took a risk by not Americanising it nor diluting the acid tones of the material, which began life as a 1988 book by Roald Dahl. The verdict: risk rewarded.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: Welcome to the deliriously amusing, malevolent, heartwarming, head-spinning world of "Matilda: The Musical." You won't want to leave...To their great credit, the writers and Warchus have underplayed the telekinetic powers with which Dahl endowed Matilda. One of this show's many strengths is its reliance on human, not technological, magic. The ensemble, young and old, boasts terrific performances across the boards. But the true amazement is in the unaffected yet utterly self-composed and irresistible performance of young Shapiro; I can only hope the other Matildas are equally enchanting.

Linda Winer, Newsday: The show, adapted from Roald Dahl's mordant 1988 children's book, is a surprisingly low-tech pleasure from the same Royal Shakespeare Company that blew up "LES MISERABLES" into a mega-spectacle. Director Matthew Warchus, a master of character-defining physical comedy, has put big handfuls of tiny gifted actors and monstrous authority figures into Rob Howell's relatively simple set of Scrabble-like alphabet tiles and towers of bookshelves.

Matt Wolf, The Telegraph: In some ways, the original innocence of the piece has been lost. There's a harder-edged quality to the New York staging: the general tenor is louder and more exaggerated, and the Gilbertian finesse of composer Tim Minchin's astonishing lyrics didn't translate for my companion, a first-timer to the show. At the same time, Bertie Carvel, making his Broadway debut, seems to have adjusted his award-winning termagant of a Trunchbull up a notch...But the tremendous heart and intelligence of the piece remains undimmed, and among the new recruits, special kudos must go to Gabriel Ebert's Mr Wormwood.

Michael Sommers, New Jersey Newsroom: A smart, supple score by Tim Minchin swiftly propels the rather sinister tale with a variety of tunes and spirited rhythms...A jubilant "When I Grow Up" playground number during which the kids swing out over the footlights, and Matilda's lovely, reflective "Quiet" solo sweeten a score that more often than not sounds spooky...Even more troubling, and faithful as the musical's makers may be to the contents and tone of Dahl's original, the fanciful show possesses an oddly nasty flavor that other people might savor in recollection of their miserable childhoods...Regardless of my taste for the material, director Matthew Warchus' production of the musical certainly is impressive.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: The makers of "Matilda" have done the impossible-triumphantly. They've taken Roald Dahl's popular children's novel and turned it into a big-budget musical that is true enough to the book to satisfy its youthful readers, yet sophisticated enough to delight childless adults who normally wouldn't be caught dead partaking of such kid stuff. It's smart, sweet, zany and stupendous fun.

Emma Brockes, UK Guardian: The RSC's Matilda opened on Broadway this week, and it was so good, people in the theatre wiped their eyes and mouthed to each other: "Oh my God, this is so good." It was so good, the unfamiliar score sounded like something you'd been singing since your middle-school production.

Roma Torre, NY1: Broadway can add yet another blockbuster to its roster of kid-friendly shows. "Matilda", based on Roald Dahl's 1988 children's novel, is wickeder than "Wicked", as beastly as the beasts in "The Lion King" and as crowd-pleasing as anything on the Great White Way.

Michael Muston, The Village Voice: But the show's over-the-top level can be tiring--almost running over the audience indeed--and a lot of the songs are wordy emissions that sound more work-in-progress than classic stage tunes. Still, it's a kiddie show done with spirit, audaciousness, and a minimum of cheap sentiment. Matilda will surely go waltzing home with some Tonys.

Robert Feldberg, With its pizazz, humor, style, intelligence and all-around entertainment quotient, "Matilda" is, far and away, the best new musical I've seen this season. I recommend it for children and smarter adults.

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