By Matthew Blank
08 May 2013
Roald Dahl's beloved children's book about a precocious bookworm with magical powers comes to life in a new mischievous, visually-absorbing production Matilda The Musical, which opened on Broadway April 11 at the Shubert Theatre after enchanting London audiences.
Tony Award-winning director Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage, The Norman Conquests, Boeing-Boeing, La Bête, Ghost) staged the inventive, kid-packed musical that has a book by Dennis Kelly and a score by Tim Minchin. Previews began March 4.
The U.K. hit premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre in November 2010 and later transferred to the West End's Cambridge Theatre, where it continues to run. The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Dodgers present the Broadway run.
The cast features original West End star Bertie Carvel, who earned an Olivier Award for his portrayal of the malicious, pigtail-hating Miss Trunchbull. The Broadway cast also stars young actresses Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro, who share the title role. Gennusa has been announced to perform the role for the opening night performance.
Australian songwriter Minchin, who is well-known for his work as a solo comedian, spoke with Playbill.com about adapting Dahl for the stage. "I neither had to try and be dark or pull back from darkness, because I just felt like I was bathed in Dahl as a child — marinated in Dahl — and so I didn't even go back and read any of his books again or go and research him," he said.
"I just thought, 'Oh yeah, I know what Dahl's like, Dahl's like — well he's like me.' I mean, he's a genius and I'm an idiot, but in terms of his sort of humor, I just sort of thought, 'Oh, well, he loves funny words, and it's a bit dark, and it's funny, and I'll just have a crack at!'"
The Broadway principal company also features Olivier Award winner Lesli Margherita (Zorro; Kiss, Me Kate) as Miss Wormwood, Gabriel Ebert (4000 Miles) as Mr. Wormwood, original London cast member Lauren Ward (Follies, Violet) as Miss Honey and veteran Chicago actress Karen Aldridge ("Boss," "Chicago Fire") as Mrs. Phelps. Young British actor Ted Wilson from the original London cast of Matilda repeats his work as schoolmate Eric in the Broadway production.
The Matilda ensemble includes Frenie Acoba, Erica Barnett, Judah Bellamy, Jack Broderick, Ava DeMary, John Arthur Greene, Emma Howard, Nadine Isenegger, Colin Israel, Thayne Jasperson, Luke Mannikus, Madilyn Morrow, Sawyer Nunes, Jared Parker, Celia Mei Rubin, John Sanders, Tamika Sonja Lawrence, Phillip Spaeth, Ryan Steele, Betsy Struxness, Samantha Sturm, Heather Tepe, Ben Thompson, Clay Thomson, Taylor Trensch and Beatrice Tulchin.
According to producers, Matilda "is the story of an extraordinary little girl who decides that despite a bad beginning filled with rotten parents, a terrifying school and a vicious head mistress, her story is going to be an astonishing one. With the help of her teacher, her friends and a little bit of imagination, Matilda proves that even if you're little, you can do big things."
The production has set and costume design by Rob Howell, with choreography by Peter Darling, orchestrations, additional music and musical supervision by Christopher Nightingale, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone and sound design by Simon Baker.
An original London cast album preserves the infectious score. Matilda earned seven 2012 Olivier Awards including Best Musical and Best Director, as well as Best Actress (for the four young girls who shared the titular role).
For tickets go to Telecharge.com. The Shubert Theatre is located at 235 West 44th Street.