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Matilda The Musical weaves its magic at the 58th Drama Desk Awards

Following on from the UK’s recent Laurence Olivier Awards, it was America’s turn to celebrate the excellence of their theatre industry as the 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards took place at New York’s Town Hall on Sunday 19th May 2013, and Matilda The Musical did a fantastic job of representing UK theatre. The Broadway transfer of the musical took home five awards, including the ‘Outstanding Musical’ award. Bertie Carvel, who reprised his West End role as the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull in the Broadway production, was named ‘Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical’ while Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin also received recognition for their creative achievements with awards for ‘Outstanding Book of a Musical’ and ‘Outstanding Lyrics’ respectively. The contributions of Rob Howell were also acknowledged as he won the ‘Outstanding Set Design’ award, although director Matthew Warchus and choreographer Peter Darling missed out in their respective categories.

The Drama Desk Awards are the only major New York theatre awards which sees Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions go head to head in the same categories and are voted for by industry professionals comprised of theatre critics, editors, journalists and publishers. It’s a great achievement for our theatre industry as Matilda The Musical’s five wins has seen an original West End musical top a US awards ceremony, emerging victorious over the popular revival of Pippin which went home with four awards.

Matilda only recently transferred to Broadway, opening at the Shubert Theatre on 11th April 2013 with original cast members Bertie Carvel and Lauren Ward reprising their respective roles as Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honey. It received a terrific response from US critics, with Time Magazine calling it: ‘The Best British Musical since The Lion King.’ Having already been the big winner at this year’s Drama Desk Awards, it is also predicted to make a big impact at the 67th Annual Tony Awards on 9th June 2013 after being nominated in twelve categories. For London theatre-goers, the Broadway success of Matilda will come as no surprise though. The premiere of the RSC musical adaption at Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2010 received rave reviews from critics and fans alike and it wasn’t long before it transferred to the Cambridge Theatre, proving just as popular with a West End audience. It has won numerous theatre awards since then, including eight Olivier Awards in 2012 at which it was named ‘Best New Musical’, and is currently booking until May 2014. The combination of Dennis Kelly’s book and Tim Minchin’s score resulted in a work of theatrical genius, bolstered by the efforts of director Matthew Warchus, choreographer Peter Darling, Rob Howell’s set and costume design, and last but not least, the outstandingly brilliant cast which brought the beloved characters of Roald Dahl’s book into musical existence in the most fantastic way.

A number of West End productions have transferred to Broadway in the last year, including Ghost The Musical. Based on the hit 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, the musical adaption featured a book by original screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin and music & lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, with Matilda director Warchus also heading up this production. It had a respectable West End run at the Piccadilly Theatre and is currently wowing audiences on its UK tour. It transferred to Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in early 2012 with original leads Richard Fleeshman (Sam) and Caissie Levy (Molly). It closed after just four months following mixed reviews, although a US national tour is set to launch later this year.

Richard Bean’s play One Man, Two Guvnor’s also made the trip across the pond around the same time as Ghost The Musical. After success at the National Theatre, it transferred to the Adelphi Theatre and is now currently playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Original cast member James Corden reprised his starring comedic role in the Broadway transfer, which opened at the Music Box Theatre on 18th April 2012, and won ‘Best Actor in a Play’ at that year’s Tony Awards.

There have been a number of Broadway shows coming to the West End, with The Book of Mormon and Once being two of the most recent, and best, examples. It’s rather nice to see that it’s not a one-sided deal as the West End is also making a worthwhile contribution to the Broadway theatre scene – Matilda The Musical’s success at the Drama Desk Awards just goes to show that we still have it in us to produce high-quality musical theatre.

By Julie Robinson @missjulie25

Tuesday 21st May 2013

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