I went to review Matilda The Musical when it first opened at the Cambridge Theatre in November 2011 and described it as a show that is “as close to perfect as you can get”. Both entertaining and moving in equal measure, Matilda has visually impressive sets (Rob Howell), sharp choreography (Peter Darling), ingenious songs (Tim Minchin) and, of course, a truly outstanding cast. Its adult ensemble are just brilliant, while its young child actors are shining stars – none more so than its team of ‘Matilda’ girls. The talented Sophia Kiely was in the title role when I was in attendance and played it with a mature professionalism beyond her years. It goes without saying that the principal performers were superb, but Bertie Carvel as the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull absolutely steals the show. His numerous nominations in a variety of theatre awards, and a subsequent win for Best Performance in a Musical in the 2011 Theatre Awards UK, prove that there are many fans out there who agree as well. Carvel has played every Matilda performance since opening – until this week, when Al Parker covered and, by all accounts, did a fantastic job. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Imagine we must though as it was recently announced that Carvel will be leaving the show on 1st July 2012. As yet, there has been no word on who will take over from Carvel but whoever it may be, they will have some very big shoes to fill. With the vast number of talented individuals floating around the theatre industry however, I’m sure whoever steps up to put them on will find they fit just fine.
Before Carvel leaves though, there will be some other departures in the show. Lauren Ward and Paul Kaye who play Miss Honey and Mr Wormwood respectively take their final bows this April, with Haley Flaherty and Steve Furst taking over on 17th April 2012. Flaherty was last in the West End playing the role of Meg Giry in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom sequel Love Never Dies but has also had leading roles in shows such as The Rocky Horror Show (Janet) and Grease (Sandy). Furst is a comedian, actor and writer who most people will recognise from the Orange mobile phone cinema adverts and his regular appearances in Little Britain. The ‘Matilda’ team will also see a shake-up, with Kerry Ingram and Sophia Kiely leaving and Jade Marner and Isobelle Molloy (currently playing Amanda Thripp) joining current ‘Matildas’ Cleo Demetriou and Eleanor Worthington Cox. From August, Hayley Carnham also joins the company.
The first cast change of a new West End show is always a big event as, until that moment, fans have had no experience of any other performers in the roles. As I said, it can sometimes be hard to imagine anyone else playing them, but if you always keep an open mind – even if it is your favourite performer who’s leaving – then often, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Matilda The Musical is a phenomenal show that has become one of the biggest West End hits of 2011 and with the booking period having been extended to February 2013 and plans for the RSC to take the production to New York in early 2013, it seems that the only way for Matilda is up.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 29th March 2012