Since it opened in the West End in 2010 over 8 million people have flocked to see it and now the UK tour means even more get to enjoy the stage twist on the Roald Dahl classic.
Behind the musical version is the Royal Shakespeare Company, chosen by the Dahl estate to transform the children’s tale along with Dennis Kelly who turned it into a play and successful comedy writer Tim Minchin, who was given the green light to create the music and lyrics. Together they have turned the show into one of the most successful and award winning musicals of all time.
The Palace Theatre is now its home until late November and as soon as the curtain rose on press night you could feel Manchester audiences were in for something very special.
Ben Davies’ spectacular set was instantly revealed to show a proscenium arch made up of alphabet cubes and books but before you even got the chance to guess all the jumbled up words surrounding the edges a flurry of child performers burst onto the stage like a corks popping from champagne bottles – all fizzing with excitement and bubbling with energy.
Opening number ‘Miracle’ introduces the mischievous children of the cast as they light up the stage like true professionals and possess a sass and confidence far beyond their years (which at most must be just 12).
The show-stopping introduction sets the scene for the grand entrance of leading lady and pint sized performer Matilda, played on press night by Sophia Ally. Sophia is one of four girls who rotate the role during the run and commands the stage from start to finish with her incredible performance, delivery and sense of comedy timing.
As you would expect from a Dahl story there are some incredibly larger than life characters making their transition from page to stage and at the helm is the hugely horrid Headmistress Miss Trunchbull, played by Craige Els.
Having played the role for over three years in the West End Els is truly at home here, and has created a Trunchbull who is both frightening and hilarious in equal measures. His performance also includes more than a few nods to the traits of the shows lyricist Tim Minchin too!
Huge praise must also go to Sebastien Torkia as Mr Wormwood, Matilda’s dodgy car dealing Dad. Torkia is a joy to watch and his East End cockney wide boy caricature has you howling throughout.
He is ably supported by his equally ‘off the wall’ wife, Rebecca Thornhill, who puts more love and energy into her ballroom dancing and her passion for Latino dance partner Rudolpho than wasting time with her well educated daughter.
Director Matthew Warchus has created so many stand out scenes in the show it is hard to single out just one. If pushed, I would have to choose the slickly choreographed scene in which the alphabet wall takes shape around the performing cast, although for sheer audience reaction, the sight of Trunchbull throwing a disobedient kid into the sky to shrieks of horror and nervous laughter comes a very close second!
Matilda the Musical is such a treat and it will leave you marvelling at the huge amount of talent within the cast and production team. It is a modern musical masterpiece and is sure to leave you going home humming Minchin’s iconic ‘When I Grow Up’.
The standing ovation at the end of the show was both inevitable and well deserved. Quite rightly, the young Matilda (Sophia Ally) received the most cheers and I’m sure this will be the norm for the next 11 weeks it plays at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
Trust me you would be more than a little bit ‘naughty’ to miss it!
Runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 24th November.