People of a certain age are fans of Matilda, both the book and the movie adaptation. We grew up reading the story of the telekinetic girl who decides to stand up to a bully, and watched in wonder as Bruce Bogtrotter ate an entire chocolate cake. This particular memory is forever etched in my brain, and I’m sure it’s the same for people who saw it during their formative years. Now, we get to enjoy this timeless story in a different format, in a musical, and it’s so fun to watch. It is a dream come true to see Matilda the Musical again on stage (I saw the Atlantis production a few years ago) after watching videos on YouTube countless times.
Matilda started as a book by Roald Dahl, written in 1988. It was adapted into a film in 1996, with Rotten Tomatoes describing it as “odd, charming,” and captures the “book’s spirit.” In 2011, it was turned into a musical, winning seven Olivier Awards and five Tony Awards. In all of its iterations, it follows the titular character, a precocious five year old smarter than your average kid. However, fortune did not favor her, putting her in a family that doesn’t appreciate her gifts and in a school run by a terror principal. She leads a band of children to revolt against what’s wrong and hopes to set everything right.
The musical is a worthy addition to the Matilda universe, adding a fresh take to the classic story. The songs, written by Tim Minchin, are joyous and filled with glee, and perfectly captures the innocence of children. “Naughty” sums up the virtue of taking matters into your own hands even if you’re little, while “Revolting Children” is about fighting back against an oppressive adult system. However, some of its best moments are in the more somber numbers. “When I Grow Up” is an achingly beautiful song about wanting to be an adult so you can be “brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night.”
The songs are complemented by a stellar cast, led by Sofia Poston as Matilda. The Singaporean actress found the sweet spot between the role’s childlike innocence and intelligence. She is brimming with talent and energy, and she is a joy to watch. Other standouts include Stephen Jubber and Claire Taylor as Matilda’s parents. They brought an exuberance to the stage and were delightful in their speaking and singing scenes. Taylor is especially brilliant, notably during “Loud.” She is a triple threat: she can sing, she can act, she can dance. Sometimes she does all three at the same time. I also enjoyed Hayden Tee as Miss Trunchbull, the school’s evil principal. The role is traditionally played by a man, and Hayden provided the right amount of masculinity and menace to the proceedings.
My favorite would have to be Haley Flaherty, who played the sweet Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher who encourages her budding genius. Flaherty was born for the role, exuding Miss Honey’s shyness and determination to stand up for herself. Her voice is also exquisite, soaring through the theater with a clarity that reminded me of Lea Salonga’s vocals. It’s no surprise when you consider she performed the same role on the West End. Like Flaherty, Tee is also part of the West End cast of Matilda.
Another thing I enjoyed about the musical is the choreography. Peter Darling’s choreography is beautiful, especially during “Loud” and “School Song.” You’ll have to see it for yourself, but it takes an enormous amount of trust in your fellow dancers to pull off the complex movements of “School Song.” Some of my favorite sequences are from “When I Grow Up” and “Revolting Children.” I literally whispered “oh my god” during those two numbers. So so good.
Matilda the Musical is perfect for those who grew up with the book and the movie, and also for those who have not. Matilda‘s story is one that many can relate to. We have all seen injustice and the musical encourages us to “be a little bit naughty.” It reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This story is in partnership with GMG Productions. Matilda the Musical will be staged at The Theatre at Solaire from March 5 to 22, 2020. Tickets are now on sale at www.ticketworld.com.ph. For more information, visit GMG Productions’ website and follow them on Facebook.