“To change the world, it takes a little genius.” This was the tagline that appeared in some of the promotional advertising for the Broadway production of Matilda the Musical – but this same declaration could also stand as one of the guiding themes exemplified in the celebrated books written by the legendary Roald Dahl, whose works often feature children who are smarter than the adults around them.
Originally published as a novel in 1988, Matilda tells the tale of young Matilda Wormwood, a precocious child who asserts herself against a harsh world of mostly uncaring adults. The book details Matilda’s accelerated development, from learning how to speak in her first year to understanding how to read at age three and a half. As Matilda begins to devour books, in no time at all she graduates from simple nursery rhymes to the classics. Meanwhile, her selfish parents abuse her emotionally and refuse to acknowledge her extraordinary abilities. To avoid her own frustration, Matilda compensates by playing pranks on her parents. Her attitude toward grown-ups evolves, however, when Matilda enters school and encounters two conflicting kinds of adult influence: the kindness and compassion exhibited by her teacher, Miss Honey, and the soul-crushing cruelty of the school’s headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. In a battle of wills, Matilda dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.
This musical adaptation of Dahl’s novel originated at the Royal Shakespeare Company, a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. In 2009, the company engaged writer Dennis Kelly and composer/lyricist Tim Minchin to adapt the novel into a work of musical theater, who worked alongside director Matthew Warchus to bring Dahl’s world to the stage.
Originally titled Matilda, A Musical, the show opened Dec. 9, 2010, at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The premiere engagement ended as planned a month and a half later – but this was only the beginning of the show’s journey. The show then transferred to London’s West End, under the new title Matilda the Musical. After a couple of logistical setbacks – the theater’s structural issues and complicated scenic installations delayed both the start of the show’s previews and its opening – the show celebrated its opening night on Nov. 24, 2011, at the Cambridge Theatre. Quickly, the show became a hit. The production received 10 nominations for the 2012 Olivier Awards – and won seven awards, including the coveted prize for Best New Musical. In March of 2020, the London production suspended performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the show re-opened at the Cambridge Theatre on Sept. 16, 2021. The show is still running to this day in London’s West End.
With a reported capitalization of $16 million, the Broadway production of Matilda the Musical began previews on March 4, 2013, at the Shubert Theatre, and opened that year on April 11. The success in London was duplicated across the Atlantic Ocean. The Broadway production earned 13 nominations for the 2013 Tony Awards, and it took home four wins. Additionally, the Broadway show’s four actors who rotated in the role of Matilda each received a special award, the Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre. A national tour of Matilda the Musical opened in New Haven, Connecticut, in May of 2015, and traveled across the United States — including a three-week stop at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square in May of 2016 — before closing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June of 2017. The Broadway production – after 37 previews and 1,554 performances – took its final curtain call on Jan. 1, 2017. In the years since, the show has been produced across the globe in Australia, New Zealand, Toronto, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, South Africa, Singapore and China.
Recently, the musical was adapted into a film version. Starring Emma Thompson as the evil Miss Trunchbull, the motion picture adaptation was directed by Matthew Warchus, the original director of the stage version, and features a screenplay by the show’s original book writer, Dennis Kelly. The film version premiered in the United Kingdom at the BFI London Film Festival in October of 2022 before being released theatrically in the U.K. the following month. In the United States, the film received a limited theatrical release on Dec. 9 before it began streaming on Netflix on Christmas Day.
|Ava Marie Lee||.....||Matilda|
|Lindsay Dunphy||.....||Miss Honey|
|Colin Cook||.....||Mr. Wormwood|
|Maggie Maust||.....||Mrs. Wormwood|
|Grayson Griffith||.....||Michael Wormwood|
|Alex Minyard||.....||Mrs. Phelps/Miss Honey US|
|Fiona Thackaberry Stevens||.....||Lavender|
|Ella Bell Peters||.....||Hortensia|
|Jordan Benjamin||.....||Acrobat/Mrs. Wormwood US/Dance Captain|
|Laura Niehaus||.....||Sergei/Trunchbull US|
|Maggie Vollman||.....||Ensemble/Dance Captain|
|Clare LaTourette||.....||Ensemble/Acrobat US|
Isla DeVorss - Peck
Keyboard I/ Conductor
Verna Vander Kooi
Adam C. Alderson
Mary Lu Barbour
Scott K Davis
Douglas E Fidler
Set Construction Crew
James Boyd, Jr.
Richard Morris, Jr.