Review: 'Matilda The Musical' - UK & Ireland Tour

  • Lewis C. Baird, United Kingdom Critic

You see maggots, in this world there are two types of musical, the winners and the losers, and since seeing “Matilda The Musical” in London, back in 2013, plus another two times since, it has been considered the ultimate winner to me. Now it is touring the UK and Ireland, and no surprise, tens of thousands of people are flocking to their nearest theatre to see this stonking hit. To see how the tour compares to the stunning London production, I attended it’s press evening and opening night, at the biggest theatre of its run, the Edinburgh Playhouse.

“Matilda The Musical” is based on Roald Dahl’s hit children’s novel, which follows the young girl obsessed with books and can somehow move objects with her mind. Her parents are horrible and she’s got an even worse headteacher in the form of the dreaded Miss Trunchbull. She does however, have the lovely Mrs Phelps and Miss Honey to support her. Can Matilda change her parent’s attitude, and fight off the bully that is Miss Trunchbull? Get tickets and find out!

Scarlett Cecil is incredible as Matilda. Her acting and presence on stage is fantastic, she completely owns the character and gives her own interpretation Matilda, compared to those seen in the book, plus the 1996 film adaptation. Scarlett’s energy is unbelievable, she is on stage in almost every scene, giving her all, and by the end of the performance she doesn’t even seem tired! Her singing voice is beautiful, especially during the striking number “Quiet”, where she completely grasps the audience in the palm of her hand. Such a superb performance from this young actress.

Elliot Harper is terrifyingly brilliant as the iconic Miss Trunchbull. Elliot’s characterisation of this villain will scare the children within the audiences, and yet he will also make them cry with laughter. The physicalization that Elliot gives Trunchbull makes her pull the audience’s attention as soon as she steps onto stage, plus her voice is aggressive and hilarious at the same time. It seems impossible but these contrasts are really what makes Elliot’s portrayal so great. This is definitely one of the best portrayals of Trunch that anyone will see.

Carly Thoms is instantly loveable as Miss Honey, intelligence radiates from her, and the vulnerability that she presents the audience with, just makes her so accessible. Carly’s rendition of “My house” is devastatingly beautiful, her vocal control and piercing emotion translates one of the pinnacle points of this plot so well. Her relationship with the child actors is clearly strong behind the scenes, which makes Miss Honey’s devotion to her students even stronger. This is truly a touching and lovely performance.

Sebastien Torkia is devilishly charming as Mr Wormwood, Matilda’s father. His evil streak is forgiven by the audience due to his hysterical quick wit. Sebastien’s characterization of Mr Wormwood is complimented even more when we see his brilliant chemistry with Rebecca Thornhill as Mrs Wormwood. Rebecca’s portrayal of the rather mental Mrs Wormwood, is one which is delivered with such confidence and familiarity. This is to be expected since Rebecca portrayed the same character in London, however, the energy, passion and drive to deliver this character to new audiences is clear. Sebastien and Rebecca’s performances, are absolutely a hoot to watch.

Matt Gillett as Rudolpho, is a flexible, sexy (maybe to some) and fabulous supporting character, which is delivered with fantastic comic timing and some great energetic moves. Michelle Chantelle Hopewell is delightful as Mrs Phelps, the librarian, Michelle delivers a lovely and pretty hilarious relationship between Mrs Phelps and Matilda, she also delivers a very apt narration in the final moments of the show.

Within this show, there is without a doubt, the best child ensemble in a musical. They all come together, delivering their own quirks and interpretations of the characters, plus the energy, singing and acting talent is staggering. In the press performance, the children ensemble was as follows, Toby Mocrei as Bruce, Ben Pike as Tommy, Alfie Sanderson as Nigel, Toby Hales as Eric, Lillie Downton as Hortensia, Aiya Augustin as Alice, Lily Van Veen as Lavender and Darcy Kelly as Amanda.

And of course, we have to include the adult ensemble who are fantastic at adapting into different characters, supplying ounces of energy, and keeping up the complex vocal, plus the physical work that this musical demands. The adult ensemble are as follows, Richard Astbury, Joe Atkinson, Nina Bell, Peter Bindloss, Oliver Bingham, Emily Bull, Matthew Caputo, Saara Casteallo, Sam Lathwood, Steffan Lloyd-Evans, Charlie Martin, Anu Ogunmefun, Adam Vaughan and Dawn Williams.

Dennis Kelly’s book for this musical, absolutely complements the Roald Dahl novel, bringing these characters to life in a colourful and contemporary way. It also goes in a completely different direction from the film adaptation, which makes the two completely different from each other. However, some would say that this adaptation is more creative and definitely more engaging to children of the 21st century. Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are simply outstanding, the man is a genius, the musical numbers featured, tell their own stories, plus add even more depth to the outlandish characters we know and love. They are also very much singalong numbers, “Revolting Children”, “When I grow up” and “Naughty” were hits on first listening in the cast album, before even having the context from the point of the plot they are placed in. Musical Director Andrew Corcoran takes this music and brilliantly adapts it to make it, big, bold and uplifting for this show. Also, Simon Baker’s sound design is very suited to the production, plus it works brilliantly to ramp up the audience’s fear, laughter and tears. The only critique I would have in regards to this production is that the music, microphones and sound effects were a little bit quiet, which did impact the audience’s energy during “Revolting Children” as it seemed too quiet for them to really react in the way have seen in London, every single time I have seen the show. However, the volume is the only issue, the music featured is performed and has been delivered brilliantly.

Matthew Warchus’ direction, with Phil Bartlett assisting as resident director, bursts these characters onto stage brilliantly, making scenes fast paced and high energy, but slowing down appropriately for rather intimate moments. They block, Rob Howell’s stunning set design efficiently by allowing the actors to make use of all the space, and it really pays off, it makes scenes seem less condensed and give the audience a clear view of Peter Darling’s spectacular choreography. Which is very stylized, swift and the epitome of contemporary choreography.

This production is just as magic as the production which is currently running in London, it is everything a musical for everyone should be. It’s creative and astonishing style is what keeps bringing audiences back for more, again and again. The cast are another level to any other touring musical, they completely throw themselves into the show, kids and adults alike. “Matilda The Musical” is an outstanding British Musical which emphasizes the pure creative genius that the west end can produce. This is one of my favourite musicals, and I love this production that much, that I am revisiting it in a weeks' time to relive all the magical madness for a fifth time! If you haven’t seen this show yet, then I would encourage you to get your tickets!



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