PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 5-12: Matilda Arrives, Nicholas Hytner to Depart and Julie Taymor and Spider-Man Settle

By Robert Simonson
12 Apr 2013

Bertie Carvel in Matilda.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Broadway finally has a spring smash musical.

Matilda The Musical, the British show based on Roald Dahl's children's book about a precocious bookworm with magical powers, with a book by Dennis Kelly and a score by Tim Minchin, opened on Broadway April 11 at the Shubert Theatre, and the critics couldn't have been happier.

The show, "is the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain," wrote the New York Times. "As directed by Matthew Warchus, with a bright, efficient book by Dennis Kelly and addictive songs by Tim Minchin, Matilda is as much an edge-of-the-seats nail biter as a season-finale episode of 'Homeland.'…Above all it's an exhilarating tale of empowerment, as told from the perspective of the most powerless group of all. I mean little children."



AP called it "a witty musical adaptation of the beloved novel by Roald Dahl and is true to his bleak vision of childhood as a savage battleground. The musical arrives in New York with plenty of hype and awards, and it mostly delivers a thrilling blast of nasty fun, even if it's a bit swollen and in need of some fine-tuning. It also has come with perhaps its most grotesque masterstroke: Bertie Carvel as the fearsome cross-dressing school headmistress Miss Trunchbull."

Most of the reviews continued in this praising vein, with enough superlatives to fill a couple full-page ads in the New York Times. The show was a "miracle," "delectably clever," "immersive and strangely moving," a "meticulously calculated production offers coup after coup de théâtre," "stupendous fun," "dazzlingly inventive," and "far and away the best new musical of the Broadway season."

Wall Street power brokers, hotel concierges, tourists, theatre geeks: take heed—there is now a new toughest ticket in town.

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The week brought bad news for another Broadway musical. Hands on a Hardbody, the cultural pulse-taking about a cross-section of Texans hoping to win a pickup truck in a grueling endurance competition, which won respectable but not great reviews, announced it will close on Broadway April 13. The musical's score is by Amanda Green and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, with a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright.

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Yes, the producers of Rebecca—the musical for which the term "star-crossed" is vastly insufficient—are still trying to get that scandal-plagued show off the ground and onto the stage.

The musical's shadowy, twisting off-stage tale—one that rivals any mystery written for the stage—hasn't deterred embattled producer Ben Sprecher from pushing forward with Broadway plans for the musical thriller. He told Playbill.com that he is getting closer to the $15 million capitalization necessary to bring the production to Broadway later this year.

As previously reported, Rebecca found a new angel in recent months, with the addition of Barbara Sellinger, who joined Sprecher and Louise Forlenza on the producing team. A March 11 reading of the musical at Sellinger's home took place with members of the previously announced Broadway cast.

Sprecher told Playbill.com April 9 that he and his team have "identified an additional $2 million" in funding, bringing their current standing to $8 million.

The show landed in the soup, and onto the tabloid pages, when it was discovered that Long Island businessman and con man Mark C. Hotton had fabricated the name and existence of an investor who pledged the final $4.5 million for the production—an investor that Sprecher had never met or spoken to.

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Finally, "Harry Potter" actor Daniel Radcliffe continues in his steady pursuit of stage cred.

Following appearances in How to Succeed… and Equus, the actor will step into the knee-deep blood and gore of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan.

Michael Grandage's new West End production will begin performances June 8 prior to an official opening June 18, for a run through Aug. 31.