BWW Review: MATILDA THE MUSICAL, Bristol Hippodrome
Children are just revolting aren't they? They're snivelling maggots that need discipline, discipline and more discipline.
Agatha Trunchbull's teaching mantra may not fill most with hope but in the context of Matilda the Musical it brings sheer delight. This is a musical that will have maggots of all ages squirming with joy.
It's always tough to take a well-loved book and put it on stage. People have treasured the story of Matilda for well over three decades, so any adaptions carry risk. What has been achieved with this (now) juggernaut of a musical is spectacular. Dennis Kelly's book has captured the essence of the original while not being confined by it.
Matilda is a little girl passionate about books and stories, not that her TV obsessed parents have bothered to notice. With knowledge far beyond her years, her only hope is Miss Honey (a delightfully innocent Carly Thoms) a teacher at a school ruled with an iron fist by the Trunchbull.
All the delights of the book are present and correct- Wormwood's hair dye mix-up, the pigtail throwing and Bruce's cake eating feat. Perhaps it's because the show was originally staged at Christmas time, but the show has delightfully indulged these moments with clever theatrical trickery that has the children around me gasping with amazement.
Equally clever is bringing in Tim Minchin to provide the music and lyrics. His lyrical dexterity is second to none, moving seamlessly from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. "School Song" with its cunningly imbedded A to Z is a highlight.
Naturally, the children take centre stage and boy have they managed to find some gems. Olivia Juno Cleverly, like Matilda herself, has maturity beyond her years. Some shows take an easy way out and keep demands on young performers to a minimum but not a bit of it here. Cleverly has the whole stage to fill on more than one occasion and does so with ease. The final song "Revolting Children" brings the young cast together in a celebration of all things naughty.
Talking of ease, Elliot Harper's transformation into Trunchbull is also frighteningly good. A part this juicy still needs extracting and Harper relishes his chance to squeeze out every last bit of the Trunchbull's cruelty. Sebastien Torkia and Rebecca Thornhill are deliciously unlikeable as Mr and Mrs Wormwood.
Matilda the Musical is a show that combines great heart, magical staging and earworm tunes- now off you to go to see it, maggots.
Photo credit: Manual Harlan