Playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian Tim Minchin perfectly capture the joy and wackiness of Dahl in this vibrant adaptation packed full of colour – ★★★★★
It’s no surprise that when talented writer Dennis Kelly and witty musician Tim Minchin work together on a musical, the end result is nothing short of spectacular.
Perhaps somewhat surprising, however, is Kelly’s marvellously upbeat script. With Channel 4’s dark conspiracy thriller series Utopia amongst the writer’s back catalogue, the innocent but wacky world of Roald Dahl doesn’t seem like the most fitting choice on paper. Yet on stage, it couldn’t be more perfect.
Kelly emulates Dahl’s story with ease and the same enthusiasm of the original. Where the plot ventures into the horrible – through the evil Miss Trunchball – Kelly manages to throw in a few surprises.
Then again, this is not a complete retelling of the classic children’s book. Miss Trunchbull is made all the more threatening with a booming male singing voice, played with gusto by Hayden Tee. New characters are also introduced, too, including a dance partner for Mrs Wormwood called Rudolpho (Callum Train).
Elsewhere, Gina Beck’s incredibly warm vocals are perfect for the sweet Miss Honey. Rob Compton also gives a high-energy performance as the flouncing and eccentric Mr Wormwood, with his ode to television Telly being a wonderfully engaging start to the second act.
Part of the credit must also be given to Tim Minchin, who brings his trademark daft and witty humour to the soundtrack, moving effortlessly between the comedic and the emotional. Notable umbers include arguably the stand-out song When I Grow Up, School Song (where Minchin’s wordplay is on full show) and Quiet (which not only compliments the earlier track Loud, but strikes a chord in a play which is for the most part chaotic and fast-moving).
Most of that comes from the talented assortment of child actors. In addition to an impressive performance from the lead role of Matilda, the company radiate excitement as their vocals merge with Peter Darling’s choreography and Matthew Warchus’ direction. Chuck in colourful, vibrant set designs from Rob Howell, and Matilda is a musical which bursts off the stage with infectious enthusiasm.
Matilda: The Musical is now playing at the Cambridge Theatre.
Production Images: Manuel Harlan.