Matilda the musical: A moving musical masterpiece

By Robert Richmond 

Matilda is a really solid adaptation of the stage show. It makes some really smart adaptational choices. I remember when Ralph Fiennes was originally cast as Mrs. Trunchbull, the drag performance works on stage but I don’t think it would’ve on stage so Emma Thompson with prosthetics is a better compromise. I don’t think this is as good as the 1990 Danny DeVito directed original film but it’s still a really great adaptation. The choreography is also of an insanely high quality.

Alisha Weir is a fabulous Matilda, Lashana Lynch, After such a ferocious and scene-stealing performance in The Woman King, it’s incredible to see her deliver such a lovely and sweet performance here… her voice is incredible! Much like Ralph Fiennes as Trunchbull, Jodie Comer was originally cast here and while that would’ve totally worked as well, Lynch is incredibly lovely in the part. Emma Thompson makes Mrs. Trunchbull her own, a smart decision considering how iconic the original Pam Ferris performance is. Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough are fun but are slightly underutilised by the script, and most of the song/scene cuts affect their numbers the most.

I think the movie suffers with the first act of the show having weaker songs (similar to the stage show), ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ onwards are all pretty great. Tim Minchin got a lot of rightful praise for his work on the score here, and anyone familiar with his comedic song stylings will notice a lot of clever wordplay. The decision to have Trunchbull surveil the school with cameras is a smart way to update the character and make her fit a modern context. The emotional beats really work, the themes all about escaping and defeating your abusers, finding love, being extraordinary.  The emotional resolution of Matilda has always made it Dahl’s most touching and moving story in my eyes and it’s carried over into this adaptation.

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