The critics agree that Matilda: The Musical is an incredibly imaginative delight for both children and adults. Cleverness and magic abound in this new production, thanks to the direction of Matthew Warchus and the creative songwriting of Tim Minchin, who focus on the power of storytelling and the magic of books — unlike the 1996 movie, this musical is about people, not supernatural abilities. Engaging and entertaining performances make this production irresistible — Milly Shapiro and Bailey Ryon receive praise as two of the four possible Matildas you’ll see, and Bertie Carvel’s cross-dressed Mrs. Trunchbull is both scary and believable as the show’s antagonist. The overwhelming consensus is that this musical is one of a kind and the best new work in recent memory — plain and simple, it’s not to be missed.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Rejoice, my theatergoing comrades. The children’s revolution has arrived on these shores, and it is even more glorious than we were promised. As directed by Matthew Warchus, with a bright, efficient book by Dennis Kelly and addictive songs by Tim Minchin, “Matilda” is as much an edge-of-the-seats nail biter as a season-finale episode of “Homeland”. Above all it’s an exhilarating tale of empowerment, as told from the perspective of the most powerless group of all. I mean little children. It’s principally [her] teacher that occupies our Matilda Wormwood, played the night I saw the show by the marvelous Milly Shapiro, who resembles an avenging cherub from a Renaissance day of judgment painting. (The part is played in rotation by three other actresses, Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence and Bailey Ryon.) And I promise you have never met a teacher who inspires fear and loathing as commandingly and wittily as Miss Trunchbull, portrayed by the incomparable Bertie Carvel in a performance that breaks the mold of cross-dressing on Broadway, as a fascist on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The elements of storytelling have been laid out for us from the beginning. When first seen, [designer Rob] Howell’s set is an airy wonderland of large letter-bearing tiles and bookcases. It suggests the endless supply from which Matilda (and vicariously we) can draw to make words, which make sentences, which make stories. [Songs by] Mr. Minchin deliver plenty of swipes at deserving targets, including parents who make their children their religion, in the opening number, “Miracle.” But he is never merely clever, a restraint that speaks to this musical’s point that intellect doesn’t have to trump emotion. He has written some lyrically expressive charmers for Matilda and Miss Honey, which identify them as soul mates in loneliness. As for the child performers, who are supplemented by adults portraying children, I mean it as the highest praise when I say they are not adorable. Or aggressively bratty or scene stealing. They occupy most convincingly that anxious state of siege we call childhood. Mostly “Matilda” exists entirely on its own terms, to serve and to celebrate the story, without the hard-sell tactics that are usually a musical’s lifeblood. In the current landscape of Broadway…this show [feels] truly revolutionary.”
“Welcome to the deliriously amusing, malevolent, heartwarming, head-spinning world of “Matilda: The Musical.” You won’t want to leave. Thank Roald Dahl, who wrote with such glee about drunk, stupid, lazy, cruel adults and bewilderedly abused, brilliant children, of whom Matilda is the paradigm. As in London, where the show is a huge hit, ‘Matilda” is directed by Matthew Warchus with songs by Tim Minchin and a book adapted from Dahl by Dennis Kelly. All are aghast at the girl’s obsession with books, a point nicely emphasized by designer Rob Howell, who has blanketed the front of the Shubert Theatre with letter tiles, looking like a Scrabble player’s hallucination. Warchus and choreographer Peter Darling have devised “Matilda” as a mad cartoon. In one scene they pile the school children atop one another, their arms extended like some multilimbed god as Miss Trunchbull looks on in contorted fury. To their great credit, the writers and Warchus have underplayed the telekinetic powers with which Dahl endowed Matilda. One of this show’s many strengths is its reliance on human, not technological, magic. The ensemble, young and old, boasts terrific performances across the boards. But the true amazement is in the unaffected yet utterly self-composed and irresistible performance of young [Milly] Shapiro; I can only hope the other Matildas are equally enchanting.”
“The new Broadway musical “Matilda,” based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s fantasy novel, was originally conceived by the Royal Shakespeare Company as family-friendly Christmastime entertainment, not unlike the cheesy and overly sentimental shows that flood New York each holiday season. But it turned out to be an incredibly intelligent, heartfelt and entertaining work that went on to achieve critical and popular success in London and now arrives on Broadway like a white knight sent to rescue a disappointing season for new musicals. Singer-songwriter Tim Minchin’s unique and unpredictable score is as character-sensitive and penetrating as it is melodic and memorable. Matthew Warchus’ (“God of Carnage”) inventive production does not shy away from depicting Matilda’s peers as unashamedly self-indulgent and the world around them as garish and threatening. Bailey Ryon, who played the role [of Matilda] at the Saturday matinee I attended, gave a nuanced, spunky performance that more than captured the character’s determined spirit and vulnerability. Bertie Carvel, who was brought over from the London production, gives a delightfully exaggerated performance as the monstrous Miss Trunchbull.”
“A small army of [children] has invaded Broadway’s Shubert Theatre and, along with an astonishing adult performance by a heretofore unheralded British actor on these shores, Bertie Carvel, they form the captivating cadre of kids in “Matilda,” by some large and tickling measure the most splendiferous new musical of the year. With a delectably clever score by Tim Minchin and a slyly evocative book by Dennis Kelly, the musical, minted by the Royal Shakespeare Company and adapted from the story by Roald Dahl (of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fame), is distinguished by its wonderful look and a caliber of choreography for young people you rarely ever experience. If Milly Shapiro’s accomplished, confident, well-sung Matilda sets the standard, then any one of this pint-size quartet will make you — and any other grown-up or child who happens to tag along — happy to be a ticket holder. Director Matthew Warchus, choreographer Peter Darling and set and costume designer Rob Howell conjure a universe of exotic and yet familiar flavors, [and] Carvel’s Miss Trunchbull is as close as you can imagine to a figure who’d swim in your head after consuming a tablespoonful of spoiled mayonnaise. It’s as immersive and strangely moving — for adults, surely — as any new musical to come along in a while. Minchin, Kelly, Warchus and company have worked an incandescent sort of magic in turning a Broadway theater into a Dahl’s house.”