Matilda the MusicalPhotos – James Morgan

Baking the creative ‘theatrical’ cake: is there a recipe for success? When I heard that Tim Minchin was taking on Roald Dahl’s classic, Matilda, I couldn’t wait to witness what Minchin, with his wicked way with words, would work-up. Basic ingredients? Talent! Without talent, this theatrical cake would not rise (to the occasion). Minchin gets a rise out of everyone, taking them on a merry lyrical ride, in true Minchinesque style: combining the talents of this fledgling cast (are they experienced little-actors stuffed into child-sized costumes – surely they are not real CHILDREN?) this production of Matilda has me gobsmacked.

Yes, talent, pure and un-adult-erated: how can a show comprise mainly children, younger than young, and be so powerful? So pertinent? So well enacted on every level, from seamless singing, dancing, acting, acrobatics, awe-inspiring delivery and staying awake until past MY bedtime! Now I know how actors are built from the ground up (and not the ground-up remains, as Miss Trunchbull, brilliantly played by James Millar, would have if he had ‘her’ way!). These burgeoning young stars are already well-baked and ready to serve with commanding performances from every child in the cast, with the key role of Matilda (Venice Harris on Opening Night) receiving a standing ovation. One of the audience members sitting next to me said, and I quote: “I have not seen this happen in a long, long, long time...” A sure testament to the power this production produced. From go to ‘whoaa...’ the audience was collected and contained. Brilliant performances and the orchestra (Stephen Amos, Associate Musical Supervisor, take a bow) did not miss a beat. The timing, impeccable, with the children adapting to every nuance, and some of the scenes so captivating, entertaining and screechingly funny, the audience held their breath and gasped at all the right cues. You’ve got to love that, if you are a performer... 

Choreography, set design, lighting, visual effects and costume design melded the ‘whole’ into one huge chocolate cake of satisfaction, with the school scenes alone sending shudders down my spine. How did Miss Trunchbull swing that child through the air with her pigtails? Gripping action and explosions with surprise effects; lighting and set changes with laser lights cutting through the Lyric Theatre (when it wasn’t raining coloured paper) and so many movements and embellishments, the audience didn’t know where to look next. I love live theatre – you can’t see that on telly! Speaking of telly, “All I know I learnt from telly, the bigger the telly, the smarter the man, You can tell from my big telly, just how clever a fella I am!” Daniel Frederiksen, key player Mr Wormwood, you are a trouper, Vaudeville to the core, and so loath-some you could run for president. 

Mrs Wormwood, whom you know and love to hate (Nadia Komazec, fantastic performance) dancing with Rudolpho, Travis Khan (don’t I know you?) sings “looks are more important than books” admitting “you’ve got to be long as you say it with a bit of clout.” Bruce (Exodus Lale) “you could have heard a fly burp” and Trunchbull with some of the corker-lines; “Stench of revolt; pong of dissent; smell of rebellion” – you could hear Tim Minchin speaking to us all. 

Fearful Miss Honey (Elise McCann, we love you too) still battling her own demons, and the story unfolding to embrace her ‘coming of age’, through the salvation and rescue of Matilda. Hugs, they are so important, aren’t they?

Revolting? The Revolting Children pack a punch with mighty power – these little actors must have been practicing since embryos to nail it like that! Matilda tells her stories to Mrs Phelps (Cle Morgan) with the librarian hanging off every word, as were we, adding more colour to an already kaleidoscopic stage. 

Roald Dahl’s popular book is brought to life, for all to witness, in a brilliantly crafted and entertaining way (Dennis Kelly), with Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics bringing it home to all of us. A thoroughly enjoyable evening of live theatre, embracing all ages, in the audience and on the stage. Not to be missed.

Louise Withers and Associates presents
Matilda The Musical
book Dennis Kelly | music Tim Minchin | based on the novel by Roald Dahl

Director Matthew Warchus

Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 25 Nov 2016 – 12 Feb 2017
Tickets: $55 – $175