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REVIEW: Matilda The Musical ✹✹✹✹✹ at Sunderland Empire

Roald Dahl’s Masterpiece Succeeds In Sunderland

Matilda The Musical ✹✹✹✹✹

Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 2 June 2018

Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
Book: Dennis Kelly

The theatre that says it is "The West End of the North East" has most definitely delivered on its word with Matilda. The musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company was a delight. Well deserving of the accolades bestowed upon it, Matilda really is one of the better musicals out there.

Based upon the 1988 book by legendary author Roald Dahl, we get a tale of miracles, ambition and our school days rolled into. Add in some clever subplots and you are transported away to a world of the best read 5 year old.

Her parents didn't plan to have a second child. Mum (Rebecca Thornhill) was a dance enthusiast on her way to a competition with her dance partner.  Dad (Sebastien Torkia) was a second-hand car dealer trying to pass off old bangers for top money. Matilda (Annalise Bradbury) was ignored and left to work her way through the books in the library. From this she gets a creative mind that far surpasses the family who'd rather watch TV.

But the day comes when Matilda starts school. It is a
ruthless establishment in which children are maggots and the championship hammer throwing head Miss Trunchbull (Craige Els) rules with an iron first. Any child who disobeys the rules runs the risk of ending up in chokey. The teacher of the bottom class, Miss Honey (Carly Thoms) recognises Matilda's talent but she is overruled when suggesting promoting the girl to a higher set. There are rules you know. They are there to be obeyed.

What makes Matilda stand apart is that, in addition to a great strong story, and a fine adult cast, we have an extraordinary child cast. 

They sing and dance so precisely that it easy to forget quite how young they all are. The likes of Lavender (Isobelle Chalmers) and Bruce (Elliott Stiff) are both precocious and adorable. However it is Annalise Bradbury as Matilda who is simply superb. With the ability to gel the show together with real star quality, she never out a foot wrong all night.

The cocktail is complete with a large live band under musical director Andrew Corcoran and clever set design from Rob Howell. The movement of the set flows quickly at the end of each scene so there is no pause in the action. This helps keep the pace and momentum going for the younger members of the audience.

The adults capture the caricature of the illustrations that accompany Dahl’s books. Craige Els is larger than life whenever the Headteacher swept across the stage. There was also singing ability, during The Smell of Rebellion and athleticism when flinging young maggots across the stage or vaulting in the physical education lesson. Matilda’s family, including her brother Michael (Matthew Caputo) and the mother’s dance partner Rudolpho (Matt Gillett) are delightfully grotesque in the characterisation. Appropriate pathos is delivered by the nice teacher Miss Honey (Carly Thoms) and librarian Mrs Phelps (Michelle Chantelle Hopewell).   

Matilda is truly special.  
A children's story which adults will enjoy. Full of moral integrity, the story never lectures the audience. Full of twists and turns, you care about how it ends. Fine choreography and singing from the young cast help make it one of the best night's entertainment that we've had so far in 2018. Yet it is funny too. Dahl was such a great storyteller and that is reflected in this marvellous show.

Review by Stephen Oliver

This evening’s Child Cast:
Matilda – Annalise Bradbury
Bruce – Elliott Stiff
Tommy – Dylan Hughes
Nigel – Sheldon Golding
Eric – Harrison Wilding
Hortensia – Daisy
Alice – Nina Bell
Lavender – Isobelle Chalmers
Amanda – Madeline Gilby

On The Web:

Twitter: @MatildaMusical
Facebook: @MatildaTheMusical
Instagram: @MatildaTheMusical

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online from our affiliate ATG Tickets LINK*

*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your plus your phone company's access charge. Booking and transaction fees may apply.

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