One of the musicals I've most wanted to see over the past few years was Matilda and it finally came to Toronto this summer.
To prepare for the show, I read Matilda the week before. I'm pretty sure I read it as a child, but I genuinely couldn't remember and it was just as charming as Roald Dahl usually is. I actually have more vivid memories of the Mara Wilson movie (I think the chocolate cake scene haunts a lot of people), but I read it in less than a day and it's full of delightful quotes about the power of books.
A big reason I wanted to see the musical was because of the set design. It's a wordsmith's dream: shelves of books (in the library set), letters scattered around most of the other sets, SWINGS (I love swings) that made me want to run to the nearest park. In short, it was beautifully done.
The musical mostly sticks to the plot of the book, with a couple of big changes. Matilda's mother is no longer a neglectful bingo player, but an amateur dancer with a half-Italian partner. The Russian mafia shows up for a scene that's both funny and vaguely racist (especially since they weren't in the book). And Matilda herself entertains Mrs Phelps the librarian with an elaborate story that (spoiler alert) ends up revealing the truth about Miss Honey's childhood. The added subplots didn't really add anything to the play apart from bulking it up and giving it the opportunity to add a couple of extra songs, so I'm not sure how necessary they were.
The biggest issue with the musical, though, was the accents. I'm not sure why the whole cast had to affect accents when it wouldn't have made a difference if they weren't British. And I know it sounds terribly cruel to say, but the girl who played Matilda that night didn't seem to live the role. She was a little robotic, and her accent was all over the place. I realize she's all of 10, but there are lots of child actors who make you believe in their characters, so it's not that mean, right? RIGHT?
It's a cute show, and good for a night out, (and Miss Trunchbull as played by a dude is great), but it probably isn't going to make it very high on my favourites list. I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in December, and I liked that one more.