Matilda the Musical

Critics' choice
© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


© Manuel Harlan


Cambridge Theatre, Leicester Square Until Sunday December 20 2015
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'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents.

Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid.

The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern.

David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loathsome father Mr Wormwood was so greasily repellant that just watching him made you feel you needed a scalding shower, Steve Furst has more of a wide-boyish, casual cruelty; Annette McLaughlin as his Latin-dancing wife is a leggy wonder of ripe raspiness, spite and vanity. And Haley Flaherty is winning as the kindly Miss Honey, neatly side-stepping priggishness and conveying the tremulous courage of the much-kicked underdog, with a singing voice of sweetness and power.

As for the children, they are irresistible, stomping and skipping through Peter Darling's angular choreography, thrilling young audiences and push-pulling grown-ups from tears to gasps to laughter with such relentless energy that it leaves you breathless, exhilarated and marvelling at the many ways in which Minchin, Kelly and Dahl demonstrate that growing up is a lifelong endeavour. For kids, yes, but also for the children that we all remain at heart, this is wise, wicked, glorious fun.

Venue name: Cambridge Theatre
Address: Earlham St
Transport: Tube: Covent Gdn

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:40
  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:2
1 person listening
Emma Perry
Staff Writer

Took the family for a second time this weekend. Was expecting to feel the loss of Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchbull but Craige Els was excellent. He perhaps didn't convey the vulnerability that Carvel managed in this most monstrous of characters, but he played the comedy to the full. As adults, we were again moved to tears by the depth, subtlety and complexity of Tim Minchin's score and lyrics. Our kids were on the edge of their seats throughout and couldn't stop talking about it afterwards. We all wanted to have a go on the huge swings which make When I Grow Up so hair-raisingly beautiful. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't walk out delighted after seeing this.

Staff Writer

best musical in London right now. I've seen the show 4 times now every-time I go I love it and everybody I take loves it too. Don't think you need to have kids with you to enjoy this production, you don't. A great night out for the young or the young at heart

Deep S

Fabulous production. Fun, poignant, cool - couldn't have wished for more.

Tom U

I thought it was amazing. Beautiful set and an amazing cast. A wonderful array of songs and music. Each scene was like seeing Roald Dahl write it in front of the audience. No one messed up and no one laughed on stage. The man who played Mrs. Trunchable was surprisingly funny, even though he never smiled. Five stars!

Sam  cohen

Very slow first half ... Poor sceens of endless library , feel asleep . Matilda boring no expression . Second half picked up a bit as teacher could act, a few more diff sceen changes and some story finally!! However end was rushed not sure why, as they could of lost half of the repetitive sceens in the first half. It would of been nice to see the teachers house at lest!!


Matilda: was an excellent musical. Couldn't have enough of it! would highly recommend it. The performances were excellent . My 6 year old daughter kept talking about it even the next day!

Paul Tame

Matilda - An excellent set with good choreography and music. Excellent cast and theater is comfortable. The show itself is predictable and sometimes the solos are a little over choreographed. The song are part of the narrative of the show, so the songs are not really memorable. Even though they reprise the best material a few times. Might be a little frightening and loud for young children under 5.

George A

Best show in London.. Matilda has a fantastic score, fantastic set and fantastic performers. The show is perfect for families and people who want to have a fantastic night out... Highly highly recommend.

Maiken Thamdrup

One super musical all actores can be proud of beeing a part of. We read the book before the play cause we are from Denmark, but our 2 kids loved it.


Absolutely brilliant show. The best stage production I have seen in many many years and one of the best pieces of entertainment I have ever seen. Fantastic music, staging and production. Would recommend to everybody!


This show is quite definitely one of the most incredible shows I've ever had the fortune to see in the west end. Each and every child and adult who appears on stage brings their own energy to the show, throwing your emotions up down and everywhere inbetween. The visual and sound effects leave your heart racing, and when the interval begins you only just realise how much you were gripping your seat in anticipation for what comes next. A fantastic show that you are guaranteed to fall in love with, whatever age you may be.


Absolutely, outstanding, musical. Great for all ages and a must see whilst in London. The young performers and Matidla's are so good at such a young age, also Miss Trunchball is a great character. Amazing magical storyline filled with catchy, happy songs along the way. Highly recommended for all the family.


Very good musical with good acting and singing, Story is really magical. If you have kids is this performance one of best choises this moment.


It's absolutely magical! A must see for all ages. Very touching storyline and beautifully executed. One of the best musicals I have watched.


Highly recommend. Choreography and acting were excellent. Rarely see kids on stage that don't overact and annoy me. The kid playing Matilda was spot on. Loved Miss Trunchbull. Songs good and clever but not memorable. My kids loved it and I was completely entertained and impressed.

Xandra Burns

Oh. My goodness. This is the modern musical at its best. I had my doubts - could any other medium than the written word do justice to such a beloved book? [The film, I think, did not]. Roald Dahl's novel is a book about the love of books, and actually, brilliantly, the musical is a story about the love of stories. A colourful, beautiful one at that. Good theatre results in thought and discussion, good musical theatre results in a buzz of passion and motivation. As I keep trying to explain to the genre’s dissenters: It's not just about pretty singing and impressive dancing, but about a connection between the audience's experience and the characters'. “Matilda” exemplifies this perfectly. From the moment you're ushered to your seat, you enter Her World - books are everywhere, tumbling off the proscenium, and this sense of inclusion escalates as the show goes on. Matilda is swept away to the world of fiction, and in following her story, we are too. The musical is not simply the book performed onstage, but an enhancement of it, with unfamiliar plotlines that capture the advantages of musical theatre. Songwriter Tim Minchin is known for telling it like it is, for bluntly stating the awkward and obvious that runs through our heads, and his score for the show retains this authenticity. But who knew Minchin could do cute as well as candid? If you want to read more, but keep putting it off, watch “Matilda”. If you need that kick of inspiration to spend less time in front of the telly, watch “Matilda”. If you want to learn to be a little bit naughty, watch “Matilda”. If you need reminder of the time when all you wanted out of life was to climb trees and eat sweets, watch “Matilda”.


Fantastic show with exceptional performances all round. Highly recommended.

Olivia O'Sullivan

So good I saw it twice! The first trip was a birthday surprise - as an avid Roald Dahl fan in my youth, I was keen to see the musical interpretation and was not disappointed. The story was close enough to the book to allow for reminiscing but each character had a slightly different and unique identity. The songs were incredibly catchy, I was singing them for weeks afterwards. Fantastic cast full of talent. Would heartily recommend!


a jaw kids didnt blink and im still hunmming the songs.bravo.


Seen this 4 times now and I absolutely love it. It really is a must see. The gentleness and sense of joy and love has bread throughout this performance with the perfect mix of tears and laughter. The lyrics and lines are brilliant. "when I grow up!"


Absolutely brilliant in every way. Lyrics, dancing, acting, sets and a great story with happiness, sadness and a real understanding of the freedom being a child is all about. Went with twelve year old daughter but could happily see it again soon. Lifts the spirits and deserves its awards.


Only a few weeks after I saw it and I'd already happily watch it again. It was heartwarming without being twee, and full of childlike wonder without being childish. There were moments when the pace lagged a little and you may not go away humming the tunes but that doesn't seem to matter. Wherever you look in the production - set, performances, music - there is joy to behold.


Really good fun, excellent evening and does the book credit. The second half was amazing and they really did everything to make it impressive! Fantastic.


Absolutely barn-storming. The second half is pure joy... Cast are perfect. Miss Trunchbull is best stage villain I've ever seen. My seven-year-old LOVED it and so did I. All the bits in the book that you think would be hard to stage are done with rampant aplomb. And the subtle changes to make it more theatre-friendly work wonderfully well. I should just mention.... I'm in no way related to any of the cast or crew... and have no financial interest in the production ;-)


Amazingly well produced, everything streamlined to a tee. In reply to the two three star reviews - this is based on the book not the film. If you go expecting the film it is very different.


This play should be like les mis. Please release it on DVD. What are you waiting for? Go see it.


The perfect mix of dark humour, sentimentality and jokes about burping. I'm no fan of musicals as a rule but Minchin's witty and clever songs made this for me.


The are 3 great parts to this musical, the beginning, the end and everything in between. Book 2 dates then you'll have something to look forward to when you realise that the first one has finished. Wonderful, catchy tunes, clever songs, mesmerising acting from both young and old and a story to make you laugh and cry. I'm going for the 2nd time in march along with 6 members of my family. I'm ridiculously excited!


I would give it 10 stars if I could. Darkly funny and beautifully sung, with incredible performances, this production with all a big west end budget will blow you away. Billy Who?


One of the most ingenious pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Phenomenal staging, acting, directing and music. You'd be mad to miss it.


Enjoyable but spoiled by being far too long, and way too elaborate. Just saved by the excellent playing of Trunchbull, who managed to revive the performance each time it flagged. By all means see it, but this Matilda is far from flawless. The sound needs lots of attention: it's quite unfair to ask such young actors to project unnecessarily complex dialogue to such a large audience in the face of poor miking and mixing. Fix the sound, cut the length by half, chuck out most of the complexities and keep only the very best actors - and it will deserve the reviews it is getting from the less critical.


Absolutely loved this version of Matilda. Much of the staging is breathtaking and every character is brilliantly acted and spot on. I was in the Upper Circle and the only down-side is that the sound isn't great up there, which is slightly annoying when watching a Musical! Tim Minchin's music is very careful and cleverly crafted and adds a fine layer of his personality to an excellent production. I think it's more of a production for adults than for kids, but then that's from my adult perspective. Can't wait to see it again.

Aaron- 20 y/o

It’s a children’s show through and through. Based on the amount of 5-star reviews that have been surfacing, I expected it to be A LOT less campy and more adult friendly. If you’re expecting something even remotely close to the well-known Danny Devito film, then you’re in for a surprise. The musical is non-stop camp writing with fairly mediocre songs, nothing I walked out of the theatre singing to myself. The performances were all true to the show and the entire company was very energetic and lively. The technical aspect of the show was pretty incredible, but I honestly felt like it was a tad too much at moments and that they relied on it to carry the entire show. It has a running time of about 2 1/2 hours, which was honestly a bit too long for me. Then again, it IS a children’s show. As a fan of the film, I was a disappointed, but the children in the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. If you’re looking for a fun family event, this is perfect. If you’re looking for a good night of theatre, maybe try something else.


Simply the most wonderful Musical we have ever seen (and we have seen lots). The cast is outstanding - evry last one. The staging is awe-isnpiring and the music by Tim Minchin is, oh, so very very clever and engaging. Why is it that we cannot stop listening to it for the past 2 months? Our children know all the words and we cannot get enough of it. "Quiet" is simply the most thought provoking and moving song imaginable. Well done to everyone - this will be around for years and years - and a good job too, as we intend to see it again several times...


this production is an absolute joy - from beginning to end. You will cry, you will laugh - it has something for everyone - children and adults alike, and will hopefully be around for years and years to come. I cannot wait to see it again and I cannot wait to have children so that I can take them to see it one day!


Our 5 year old daughter loved it. We LOVED it. A totally stunning show and on every single level the best theatre experience we have ever had... it is not just a kids show it's an everybody show. The ticket queues should be runing round the corner down the road and on and on for miles..... we can't wait to see it again.

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