Entertainment & Arts

Matilda the musical proves a hit with West End critics

Matilda, comedian Tim Minchin's musical take on Roald Dahl's classic story, is a hit with critics after opening in London's West End.

The RSC production has already been named best musical at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

The Mail's five star review called it "a fabulous family fizzer", praising Bertie Carvel's portrayal of sadistic headmistress Agatha Trunchbull.

The Telegraph called it "hilarious, moving and magical".

Critic Charles Spencer said: "It is the best new British musical since Billy Elliot."

Songs were written by Australian stand-up comedian Tim Minchin, with the adapted script by playwright Dennis Kelly.

'Delicious lyrical wit'

Spencer said Kelly, "has previously been responsible for some of the most violent and depressing plays I have ever endured.

"Here, in a spectacular transformation, he has discovered joy, humour and tenderness.".

Minchin, he added, "has come up with a smashing score that combines take-home melodies with delicious lyrical wit".

Image caption Matilda is played by four different actresses, who take turns in the role

The production, which opened in Stratford, got off to a winning start at the Evening Standard awards and the Theatre Awards UK - where it picked up best musical and best performance for Bertie Carvel - before moving to the West End.

"The show has been ramped up a little bit from Stratford into the realm of West End extravaganza, without losing the intimacy, " Minchin told the BBC News website at the Evening Standard Awards.

"I'm really happy with how it's transferred."

Dahl's 1988 novel tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, an extraordinary child whose disinterested parents and malicious headmistress are contemptuous of her intelligence and completely unaware of her supernatural talents.

The Mail's Quentin Letts said the evening's lead actress, Eleanor Worthington Cox, was "blessed with a quirky charm", adding "her little classmates are terrific, too".

However, he reserved a single complaint that: "If Matthew Warchus's RSC production has a fault, it is the overdone amplification."

Guests in the audience included Only Fools and Horses' star Nicholas Lyndhurst, actor Timothy Spall and award-winning stage actress Sheridan Smith.

Lyn Gardner in The Guardian called the show, at London's Cambridge Theatre, an "anarchically joyous, gleefully nasty and ingenious musical adaptation".

The Arts Desk said Matilda was "a cunning combination of gross cartoon, pitch-perfect professionalism and endearing feel good factor".

The book was previously turned into a film in 1996 and a two-part adaptation for BBC Radio 4.

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