The six week holidays are over and, to the relief of parents everywhere, the kids are back in school – well, most of them anyway. School is almost ready to begin again with a brand new second term over at the Cambridge Theatre, as the final few weeks of preparations ensue for the eagerly awaited hit musical of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’.
The RSC production was a triumph of goliath standards with audiences at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford upon-Avon, where it ran from December 2010 – January 2011. The RSC were also the original producers of Les Miserables, which turned into the West End’s longest running musical, so it would seem they know the secret ingredient needed when cooking up a successful production.
There are three in ‘Matilda’: book writer, Dennis Kelly; director, Matthew Warchus and composer/lyricist, Tim Minchin.
Kelly has been involved since 2006 when he was approached by the RSC about writing ‘Matilda’. More of a playwright than a writer of musical theatre, Kelly wrote the script but left gaps for someone else to add in their music and songs. When Warchus came on board, he went to see Minchin perform live and decided there and then that he wanted him on the project. Minchin, it turns out, is actually a big fan of Roald Dahl and was keen to contribute, having coincidentally first enquired about the stage rights to ‘Matilda’ back in 1998.
The three admit they had very different ideas for Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book and found one of the hardest elements of the production to be what is arguably its most vital ones; the children. In early workshops, the school children were in fact played by adults, with only the role of Matilda going to a child actor. At one point, a puppet-Matilda was even considered. In the end though, they decided to use young actors for the parts and it’s a decision that clearly paid off as, not only did it receive great reviews and manage to sell out for its entire run, but also won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical.
Now, having taken over from Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre, ‘Matilda’ starts previews in the West end on 16th October 2011, opening there officially on 22nd November 2011. As theatre-goers’ excitement continues to grow, it was given a little extra fizz with the Twitter reveal of the four Matilda’s at the London Eye today. Sharing the title role will be: Kerry Ingman; Sophia Kiely; Eleanor Worthington Cox and Cleo Demetriou, who will all be joining the original main cast members: Lauren Ward as the sweetly delicious school teacher, Miss Honey; Paul Kaye and Josie Walker as the negligent, TV-obsessed parents, Mr and Mrs Wormwood and Bertie Carvel as the terrifyingly monstrous Headmistress, Ms Trunchbull.
The soundtrack to the musical was recently released through the RSC shop, featuring the original Stratford upon-Avon cast and the trailer posted on YouTube was brilliantly done, both helping to attract more attention to this second incarnation of the musical.
Of course, the Roald Dahl name is also a tremendous help in garnering interest. Didn’t everyone grow up reading Roald Dahl’s books? I know I certainly did. He was an author who saw the world in a magical way and told beautiful creative and clever stories that appealed to both child and adult alike, something which I suspect is a huge factor in the success of the musical. It’s not often you come across a production that can equally entertain both but ‘Matilda’ does it, thanks to Kelly’s genius writing, Warchus’ superb direction and Minchin’s astoundingly wonderful songs, which range from the deeply emotive to the incredibly witty.
‘Bigger than Billy and bigger than Oliver’, ‘Matilda’ is turning out to be one of the most anticipated West End arrivals this year. When Roald Dahl first wrote his story about an unheeded genius child who discovers that she possesses the power of telekinesis, I’ll bet he didn’t imagine all of this!
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Get tickets for Matilda the Musical
14th September 2011