Matilda: a musical

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Telekinacademic. Lee Lim

How many versions of Matilda will there be?

Matilda is a classic movie; it’s one that everyone knows and loves. It has the man, the myth, the legend, Danny Devito, and it was even directed by him. It’s well known that the original is based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, but only those who have read the book know that there are a lot of differences between the book and the original movie.

Enter Matilda the Musical. The musical version of the story is a lot more accurate to the book. It originally opened on the West End in 2011 and on Broadway in 2013. The stage version currently has five Tony Awards.

In December of 2022, Netflix released their film version of Matilda the Musical. I had previously seen a version of the show staged in Winnipeg.

To start, the movie is good. I really enjoyed it. One of the most difficult parts of movie musicals is the transitions into songs. When you’re sitting in a theater watching a show, you’re prepared for characters to suddenly start singing; it flows nicely. Sometimes when you’re watching a movie, it doesn’t flow as well. It can feel sudden or out of place.

Dear Evan Hansen is an example of a movie musical that does a really poor job of transitioning into song while Tick Tick Boom is an example of a movie musical that does a really great job of transitioning into song. Matilda the Musical always feels natural when they start singing. The dialogue leads into the songs well, they wait long enough before bringing in the serious dance moves so they don’t feel too sudden, and the instrumentals build along with it. The transition into song never pulls you away from the story.

The songs are all really fun. When we enter the show with “Miracle,” it sets the tone of the movie and it gives the audience an interesting perspective on the children. Every child is seen as a miracle except Matilda who would be considered a miracle in every other way because of her telekinesis. Through the song “Naughty” the audience gets to see not only Matilda’s smarts, but also her willingness to play tricks and do what she needs to do.

At the same time, the choreography shows that this is still a young child having fun. The cinematography for “School Song” is great. For a North American audience, the accents could make it difficult to understand that the lyrics spell out each letter of the alphabet, so the camera shows you. And of course, “Revolting Children” has been everywhere on TikTok lately, and it’s just as incredible as it seems.

As for the casting, a lot of it is great, but some of it misses the mark. Alisha Weir is an incredible young actress and a talented singer and dancer, but she doesn’t look like a Matilda. I find it difficult to believe that her name is actually Matilda. Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey is perfect casting. Her voice is incredible and her performance of “My House” is moving. She does a great job of playing a kind and caring teacher, and someone who deeply cares about the health and well-being of Matilda. We can’t forget about Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull. She’s physically intimidating but silly enough that it’s not too scary for the kids watching the movie. The prosthetics work well for the character. Unlike the stage adaptation, Trunchbull is played by a woman, whereas on stage she’s played by a man in drag.

If you like musicals or you have young kids, I highly recommend Netflix’s Matilda the Musical. It’s an all-around fun time and everything you could want from a successful movie musical.

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