REVIEW: Matilda the Musical (Cambridge Theatre, London)

Updated: Aug 19, 2018

"Even if you're little you can do a lot, you mustn't let a little thing like little stop you..."

So poignant are the lyrics to 'Naughty', the second lyrical number in the West End hit show Matilda the Musical, that it really has to be seen to be believed.

The Tim Minchin musical emulates the narrative of Roald Dahl's story that is beloved by many generations in both its previous guises first as a children's book and later as a film adaptation: Matilda Wormwood feels no love from her family, and so loses herself in books. By the time she is five years old and ready to go to school, she is considered a genius. Sadly, it's only her teacher Miss Honey who recognises this.

Matilda must battle against her family and battleaxe headmistress Miss Trunchbull to find her voice and a chance to grow.

The story is known by millions, and ahead of the musical I did wonder what they could possibly do with it to make it interesting, and certainly to sit on par with the wondrously nostalgic 1996 movie. It turns out: I needn't have worried.

From entering the auditorium, one can appreciate the complex staging, the intricate set design; it is a pleasure for the eyes, and soon the ears join in as 'Miracle' gets underway. It's immediately apparent that the actors - both West End veterans and young stars making their debut - have put a lot of work into this.

The synchronisation is impeccable. Not only is the choreography equally detailed and pleasing, but it's also executed in harmony among the cast. The footwork in 'School Song' is especially worthy of note; one wrong footing could have ended it all in disaster, but it was delivered, as far as my eye could tell, without fault.

Gina Beck was a particularly wonderful Miss Honey, presenting the reserved, nervous teacher with warmth before the audience can see her transform before their very eyes on her own journey. David Shannon as Miss Trunchbull was particularly captivating, executing the snarly character with distinction.

Of course, the star of the show is the musical's title character, and on this evening Matila was played by Lily-Mae Evans. She commanded the stage throughout the evening, a real triple threat of talent who presents an inspiration not just to young girls, but to anybody who has ever dreamed.

I was confident that I would enjoy Matilda the Musical, but having grown up with the film I was worried that it would not be able to perform to such a high standard. However, showcasing extraordinary talents from the cast of all ages, and presented in front of a live audience, it's everything the film is and more.

If you only see one musical in the West End just now, make it Matilda the Musical.

By Amy McLean

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