"Matilda The Musical"

Book by Dennis Kelly * Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin

"Matilda The Musical" at the JFK Center in Washington, DC. R.M. Flynn

Matilda The Musical, a Royal Shakespeare Company commission, is based on the book by Roald Dahl.  As I sat in the audience of the touring production at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, this is the main thought that kept running through my head: “When this production is available to license for amateur productions, high schools worldwide are going to be vying for the rights.” Here’s why:

This production has an enormous cast.

In particular, since the setting is primarily a school – Crunchem Hall Primary School, there is the potential for involving lots of actors as the students who are the eight named young characters (Lavender, Eric, Alice, Hortensia, Tommy, Reginald, Nigel, Amanda, and Bruce) and many more as unnamed older students. They have many opportunities onstage singing and dancing in numbers like “Miracle” (“My mummy says I’m a miracle. My daddy says I’m his special little guy.”), “School Song,” “The Hammer,” “Chokey Chant,” “Bruce,” “When I Grow Up,” and “Revolting Children.” 

There are three over-the-top adult villain characters.

These roles call for excessive, energetic, outrageous performances—Total fun for high school students to play these despicable characters, each of whom has plenty of lines, solo parts in songs, and are memorable featured roles.

Matilda’s father, Mr. Wormwood – a smarmy, dishonest, tacky used car salesman who shows nothing but disgust for his daughter, continually referring to her as a “him,” prompting Matilda to declare repeatedly, “I’m a girl.” He regards reading books with utter disdain and in his biggest number, he performs a paean to the TV, declaring “All I know I learned from telly!”

Matilda’s mother, Mrs. Wormwood – a flighty, flippant, vain, and tawdry woman obsessed with ostentatious dance competitions (like the Bi-annual International Amateur Salsa and Ballroom Dancing Championships) and downright dismissive of her daughter. In the musical number “Loud,” she belts her outlook on life:

“What you know matters less than the volume with which what you don't know’s expressed…. You have got to be loud! Girl, you’ve got to learn to stand up and stick out from the crowd!” - Mrs. Wormwood

(To get a close-up view of the Broadway character’s hair and make-up, take a look at this video.)

Miss Agatha Trunchbull – The Trunchbull – is played by a large man in professional productions. (See this behind-the-Scenes video of the actor playing Miss Truchcbull as he applies padding, wigs and warts to play the role.) The harsh hostile headmistress of the school, she was the Olympic English Hammer-Throwing Champion of 1969 who picks children up by their hair and hurls them like hammers whenever she wants to punish them. Her school’s motto: “Children are maggots.”

There is one principal ingénue role.

Miss Honey, Matilda’s sweet and devoted teacher, has three solo songs and lots of lines. She is definitely a principal character, but the production does not focus excessively on her. Another plus for school productions – No romantic kissing scenes for this leading lady because she has no leading man.

There are also multiple showcased roles.

Rudolpho is Mrs. Wormwood’s exotic, smooth-moving, extravagant dance competition partner.

He sings as well as dances with arrogant, over-the-top, hilarious aplomb. “He’s part Italian you know. Very subtle and he has incredible upper body strength,” Mrs. Wormwood explains.

The Escape Artist and The Acrobat are characters in the stories that Matilda tells the librarian. While Matilda narrates, these characters act out - mostly in movement and mime – the tale she tells.

There are also featured roles that do not require accomplished singers.

Mrs. Phelps is the public librarian who listens to and loves the stories that young Matilda makes up. She appears in several scenes, has lots of lines, but this role does not require a solo singing voice.

Michael Wormwood is Matilda’s older brother, portrayed in the musical as a lazy, dim-witted, TV-watching teenager. He appears in several scenes, but his lines of dialogue consist overwhelmingly of one-word responses.

And then, of course, there’s the title character.

Matilda is the super smart, plucky, cheeky, and sneaky focus of the show. In the book, she is five years old; in the professional productions, several 10 and 11 year-olds play the part. High schools will have to make her a little older. She’s a mistreated child who refuses to be a victim because she knows that “…sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.”

“Just because you find that life’s not fair, it doesn’t mean you have to just grin and bear it. If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.” - Matilda

Before the amateur rights are available, educational theatre directors can prepare by reading this online libretto of Matilda The Musical.

To get a better feel for the production you will likely watch children, grandchildren, and friends’ children perform in someday, take a look at Matilda The Musical Trailer.

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Flynn, Rosalind. ""Matilda The Musical"." ThoughtCo, Jan. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/matilda-the-musical-2713333. Flynn, Rosalind. (2016, January 22). "Matilda The Musical". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/matilda-the-musical-2713333 Flynn, Rosalind. ""Matilda The Musical"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/matilda-the-musical-2713333 (accessed November 21, 2017).