This time last week, my friend Amy and I got up horribly early to trek into central London and queue for day tickets to see Matilda the Musical. While it would probably have been more advisable to spend my only day off having a rest, Matilda was definitely worth it. I went with quite high expectations – I think Tim Minchin is a bit of a genius and I’m also a fan of Peter Darling – but they were met and surpassed (and the tickets were only £5 for under-25s)!
And a week later, the songs are still in my head. Minchin’s writing is entertaining and very catchy – in particular ‘Naughty’, whose chorus reminds me of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, with the same cheerful tones and tendency to get stuck in your head.
His irreverent and witty style fits perfectly with Roald Dahl’s story, and the lyrics manage to cover both thought-provoking and witty for the adults, and silly (but also clever) for the children. He has transferred his skill for writing brilliantly witty songs for himself and a piano on to a full-blown West End musical, and the result is fantastic. At points the songs are sentimental, but steer clear of cloying; lyrics such as Matilda’s
“Even if you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it
Nothing will change.”
are delivered with such enthusiasm and gusto by the young actress that there is no time for them to become soppy.
I was impressed (but as a fan of Billy Elliot not surprised!) by the consistent talent of the large young ensemble cast, as well as the obvious talents of Matilda. Matilda sings “Even if you’re little you can do a lot” and the acting, singing and dancing of the young cast certainly prove that’s true.
The show has immaculate staging, and choreography by Peter Darling – the swings in When I Grow Up are probably the best known, but what I found far more astonishing was the ‘School Song’. With the incorporation of 26 alphabet blocks into the song’s staging, to accompany the letters of the alphabet appearing in the lyrics, it’s a really clever idea, but must have been headache-inducing to bring to reality (and to repeat every night on stage).
It’s rare to find a musical, or any form of entertainment, ostensibly aimed at children but so satisfying for adults. Matilda has already been a storming success, but I’m sure it will continue to run for a long time to come.