Theatre review - Matilda the Musical, Palace Theatre Manchester

PUBLISHED: 10:39 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:39 21 September 2018

Matilda the Musical.  Matilda's home life isn't what it should be.
Credit: Manuel Harlan

Matilda the Musical. Matilda's home life isn't what it should be. Credit: Manuel Harlan

Manuel Harlan

Matilda the Musical, currently playing at Palace Theatre Manchester, is an outstanding show that will delight children and adults alike.

Miss. Trunchball (Craig Els) is challenged by Matilda
Credit: Manuel HarlanMiss. Trunchball (Craig Els) is challenged by Matilda Credit: Manuel Harlan

I took my 12 year old son to see Matilda the Musical last night. As you can imagine, his usual state of being is determinedly unimpressed. Last night’s show broke through his carapace of cool and brought smiles and laughter and had him standing and cheering at the end – and he wasn’t alone.

You expect nothing less from the RSC, really, and reviews from London’s West End show and the earlier stops on this tour have been unfailingly, gushingly positive, so we went in with great expectations of a great night, all of which were exceeded.

The first day of school
Credit: Manuel HarlanThe first day of school Credit: Manuel Harlan

The Palace is a fabulous theatre, truly beautiful and with a great rake on the seats, so unless you’re terribly unlucky and get a rather large haired person in front of you, the view is always excellent. In this case, that is important, because the set is a fundamental and participative element of this show and quite brilliantly designed and executed. The scene when the school’s new reception intake arrives, to be quite terrified by the older children’s assertions of horrors to come, is superb. Song, dance, moving parts…all executed slickly and with precision. Very impressive.

Most impressive is the quality of the cast, however.

Miss Honey (Carly Thomas) and Miss. Trunchball (Craig Els)
Credit: Manuel HarlanMiss Honey (Carly Thomas) and Miss. Trunchball (Craig Els) Credit: Manuel Harlan

Matilda was last night played by Sophia Ally. She performed with cool panache, both when sharing the stage and when flying solo. Her standing ovation, a spontaneous rising of the entire stalls on her entrance to take her bow, was well-earned and no doubt not the first or the last. The rest of the children’s cast is crackingly good, from her cocky best friend Lavender, Louella Asante-Osuwu, to cake-eating champion Bruce, Dylan Hughes, there isn’t a weak link to be seen. The same can be said of course for the adults.

It’s hard to decide who we loved to hate best, the superbly camp yet brutal Miss. Trunchbull, played brilliantly by Craig Els or Matilda’s father Mr. Wormwood, played by Sebastian Torkia. Els played his role with admirable restraint; it would be all too easy to take Trunchbull to pantomime villain status. Mr. Wormwood was a delight; his stupidity and utter selfishness only eclipsed by that of his wife, his deliberate emotional abuse of Matilda was pitched just right for the mixed-age audience, making her predicament clear without overwhelming young hearts.

I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the film and now I have loved the musical too. It’s a very clever adaption with superb, catchy and memorable songs, clever dance routines, a great set, delicate manoeuvring around tricky subjects and a brilliant cast to bring it all together – I’d happily see it again, soon.

Matilda the Musical plays at Palace Theatre Manchester until 24 November 2018. Book tickets at www.atgtickets.com/shows/matilda/palace-theatre-manchester

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