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'Matilda' brings magic to Broadway

30 May 2013 12:20 PM
'Matilda' brings magic to Broadway

Ever since Roald Dahl published "Matilda" in 1988, producers of all kinds clamored to adapt the book. First, there was the movie version in 1996, which starred Danny DeVito and Mara Wilson and brought a frenetic energy to the beloved story. Next came a radio version that brought the tale of the precocious and strangely gifted Matilda to children and adults around the world. 

However, there was still a gap. The story's compelling characters and unique subject matter made it a natural choice for the stage, but no one had yet dared to adapt it - until 2010, when Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin decided to take a stab at it. Turning it into a musical was seen by many as a bold and risky choice, but ever since the production's premiere, it has been clear that the match between subject matter and medium was superb. After a three-month trial in Stratford, England, the play moved to London's West End, where it earned tremendous popular and critical acclaim - especially for a play based on a children's novel.

Based on the initial reaction - in addition to constantly packed houses, the show earned an unprecedented seven Olivier Awards in 2012 - it was clearly only a matter of time before the production moved to the center of the theater world - Broadway.

In April, "Matilda the Musical" opened on Broadway, and if anything, the praise has intensified. Theater critics and audience members alike have praised the production for its dark wit and imaginative interpretation of the classic story. After winning over audiences across the pond, the show has finally come to New York City, and owners of Manhattan real estate and the city's legion critics are already rejoicing in the aisles. 

In his review for New York Times, theater critic Ben Brantley could hardly contain his pleasure, as he used nearly a full page to praise the show for its off-kilter tone, incisive lyrics and irreverent exuberance. 

"Rejoice, my theatergoing comrades," he wrote. "['Matilda the Musical'] is the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain."

What stuck out most to Brantley is the show's deft balancing of language-obsessed characters and a heart-pounding plot. 

"['Matilda'] is about turning the alphabet into magic, and using it to rule he world," he continued. "[But it is also] as much an edge-of-the-seats- nail biter as a season-finale episode of 'Homeland.'"