So if you all can kindly remember, two days ago a very close friend of mine and I went to see Matilda: The Musical that made its way from London all the way to Broadway. And in a terribly, horribly cliche way I only have three things to say about the musical adaptation of one of the venerable Roald Dahl’s beloved books:
It was magical.
First of all, I think by now we all know Matilda’s plot. I mean, at least I’m pretty sure some 90s kids will; 1996 saw the release of a film that brought to life one of Roald Dahl’s most brilliant characters. After all, Matilda Wormwood is pretty much living a story that should only happen in the books she’s terribly fond of (It’s all really Dickensian): born in a family that cannot understand, or accept her intelligence and interest in reading, she’s consistently belittled at every turn by her nuclear family, and similarly tormented at elementary school. Matilda teaches us that yes, life isn’t fair, but that you can change your fate–you might have to be a little “naughty” to do so, but you can pick yourself up from an otherwise bad situation.
And it’s this message of helping yourself, that things do get better, and that you are in charge of your own story has been wonderfully adapted to the musical stage.
Okay so, I’ve never done a musical review before so if the rest of this post is nothing but gushing over the production then I apologize, but seriously, it deserves a lot of gushy praise, especially from this English major. Books and literacy are a major theme, and little Matilda Wormwood’s love for books and a (romanticized) small-town public library envelops the audience the moment you walk into the theater. The stage is literally built up of word tiles, like those you might use for Scrabble, with messages and hints at plot points hidden in the letters and the words they spell out.
The stage of course shifts and changes along with each act, and while I may not have a technical term for it… I will have to say that as a former stage-crew member, the movement of props and sets for this production is incredibly clever, and fun to watch. The word-tile theme is carried throughout and it really is effective in reminding us about Matilda’s love for books…
… Which might make a few fans of reading chortle. One of my favorite moments of the musical was during the “Telly” number when gormless Mr. Wormwood literally trashes some of the important members of the literary canon. Seriously, over four years of being an English major, and Mr. Wormwood lovingly chucks Mary Shelley, James Joyce, Jane Austen, Orwell, Shakespeare, and even poor Herman Melville into the compost bin. The poor kids in front of me didn’t understand why it was so funny, or why a college student was dying in her seat over some pun-tastic insults hurled at authors she had to study dutifully.
Actually come to think of it… Matilda isn’t a children’s musical, per say, in the same way that I don’t feel that Roald Dahl’s books are meant only for children. There are of course those adult-only jokes that will keep the older crowd happy, but I find that the overall message of the musical is age-less. After all, just because you find life’s not fair, it doesn’t mean you have to grin and bear it — and I’m quite sure many adults can resonate with this thought.
(And if you’re wondering where that moment of brilliant word-smithing came from, it’s actually Tim Minchin’s lovely lyrics as seen from “Naughty”, arguably one of the best songs of the musical)
Speaking of lyric and music — overall the songs are good. They’re catchy and they have cheek, and are all just generally feel-good, uplifting music for children and adults to meditate on. Seriously. I had to buy the original cast recording after and it’s been rolling on repeat for the last few days, haha.
So overall? I have no complaints about the musical, and just have to say that it’s a good production, and, if you can get your hands on some tickets then you’ve got to drag yourself and your loved ones to see it. It’s a wonderful feel-good story, with a bit of cathartic revenge, and the satisfactory feeling of everyone getting their deserved happy ending.
So yes, go and check out Matilda if you can!
By the way, it’s located at the Shubert Theater at West 45th Street and conveniently right beside Junior’s Cheesecake. So you can literally have your cake and eat it too, haha. :) When we went on our pre-Matilda Junior’s run, my dear friend and I indulged in a marble cheesecake brownie, a mini raspberry cheesecake, and an egg creme. Honestly skip the egg creme if you’re not used to it, but the pastries are lovely; and yes, it is a tourist trap but we couldn’t help it.
And the brownies are pretty good, just saying.
So if my (haphazard) review hasn’t been convincing enough… well, I’ll just leave you lovely readers with two of my favorite songs of the entire musical. and which honestly captures the nostalgic magic of Matilda which I think, made the musical resonate so strongly with the older members of the audience…