Show: Matilda

Date: May 1, 2013

Theatre: Shubert

Shari on the Aisle Rating: * * * * *

Lead Cast: Bertie Carvel, Gabriel Ebert, Lesli Margherita, Lauren Ward, rotating cast of 4 young actresses playing “Matilda.”

Background: Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 children’s book, the original Royal Shakespeare Company version of this musical won a record-breaking 7 Olivier awards (the British version of the Tony) in 2012. The Broadway production is currently nominated for 12 Tony awards, in a neck-and-neck race with “Kinky Boots” (13 noms). If life is fair, “Matlida” will win Best Musical. But as we know, life isn’t always fair. My money is, however, on Bertie Carvel to snag a Tony to share space on his mantle with his Olivier.

Quick Take: This is one show that actually lives up to the hype.

Take Note: Each performer is just stellar (especially Gabriel Ebert as Matilda’s sleazy father and Bertie Carvel as the monstrous Miss Trunchbull), and the creative team does an excellent job of preserving Dahl’s off-kilter creepiness. After the performance I thought about calling Child Protective Services—that’s how hard these talented kids work during this long, complicated show. They sing, dance, climb, and tumble.
In Addition: I especially enjoyed Tim Minchin’s clever lyrics. They are never predictable and always advance the story. The lyrics from “When I Grow Up” may cause even the most jaded grown up to become misty:
“Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.
Just because I find myself in this story,
It doesn’t mean that everything is written for me.
If I think the ending is fixed already,
I might as well be saying I think that it’s OK,
And that’s not right!”

Another Highlight: The superb closing number, “Revolting Children:”
We are revolting children…
Living in revolting times…
We sing revolting songs
Using revolting rhymes.
We’ll be revolting children,
‘Til our revolting’s done,
And we’ll have the Trunchbull vaulting.
We’re revolting!

Should you go? Absolutely, this is a must-see show. But good luck getting tickets to this one, unless you’re willing to pay top dollar. For those in the NYC area, try the lottery—$27—register 2-1/2 hours before curtain. Not recommended for very young children—it’s over 2-1/2 hours long, and it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of familial life. The money would be better spent on a baby sitter.