March 7, 2013 at 11:32 AM
With the newest adaptation of “Matilda,” audiences can have their cake and eat it too. This fresh take on the Roald Dahl classic, featured at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway, stays true to the book and film that everyone loves while adding new plot points to make the show come alive for the Broadway stage.
Like the 1996 movie, “Matilda the Musical” tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, a brilliant little girl who is stuck with two cruel, negligent parents and a horrifying headmistress named Miss Trunchbull. Matilda finds solace in the books that she reads and the stories that she creates in her imagination, which come to life brilliantly on stage.
Fans of the movie will be pleased to know that many memorable scenes from the movie have made the leap to Broadway. A boy named Bruce is forced to eat an entire chocolate cake in front of his classmates, a girl is thrown like a shot put through the playground for wearing her hair in pigtails and Matilda’s father has his hat Super Glued to his head.
Although much of the plot remains the same as the film, there are some new elements as well. Obviously, all of the songs were new additions, as the film was not a musical. For the most part, the songs are incredibly catchy and clever. In a particularly touching scene, the children in the ensemble sing a beautiful song called “When I Grow Up,” in which they list all of the things they will do as adults as they swing from giant swings that descend from the ceiling.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the film and stage version of “Matilda” is that Trunchbull is played by a man, Bertie Carvel, who originated the role in the London production. Easily delivering the best performance of the night, Carvel brings both humor and creepiness to the iconic role. With hulking, broad shoulders and tiny legs that stick out beneath an even tinier skirt, Carvel’s Trunchbull has an inappropriately girlish voice that she uses to berate her students and teachers. Trunchbull really starts to go crazy as things fall apart for her in the second act and Carvel plays the descent into madness wonderfully.
The most impressive part of the show was the stage design. The stage and surrounding wall are completely covered in toy blocks with letters on them, some of which spell out hidden words that relate to the show. On the stage itself, the desks that the students sit in seamlessly rise out of the floor and then disappear to transform the scene into the Wormwood’s living room. The special effects are also stunning. At one point, the entire theatre is transformed into something out of a James Bond movie as the lights go out and green lasers shoot across the stage and out over the audience. At the end of one particularly high-energy performance, giant poppers release confetti into the front of the audience.
With all of the special effects and hilarious performances doled out by the entire cast, “Matilda the Musical” allows audience members to feel like a kid again, at least for a few hours. As delicious a treat as the chocolate cake that Trunchbull forces Bruce to eat, “Matilda” is not to be missed.