I probably haven't ever had a show built up for me as much as MATILDA was. Reviews were stellar. Word of mouth was stellar. My friends who saw the show in London (and are the pickiest theatregoers I know) said it was the most amazing experience they ever had in the theatre. Unfortunately, my reaction wasn't on the same level.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two and a half hours I spent in the Shubert Theatre and will argue that it was one of the best productions I have ever seen. Technically, everything was as on point as Matilda's quick wit, but the show itself didn't resonate with me as I had hoped.
Tim Minchin's pop-y score had standout moments (like Bertie Carvel's "The Smell of Rebellion" and the ensemble number "When I Grow Up"), but didn't have me leave the theatre thinking I needed to listen to the score on repeat for the next month. The group numbers were definitely the highlights, with the solo numbers lacking some of the luster and power that they could have had.
Dennis Kelly's book was as witty as one would hope for a show about a young girl with brilliance beyond her years. The problem, for me, was that it didn't resonate. I felt for Matilda and her classmates, but it didn't instill in me any sort of passion. While I am not one to ever argue that shows can be "for boys" or "for girls," after talking with a lot of my (female) friends, I think some of the meaning is lost on a young adult male like myself.
There are a few parts of the hype though that I COMPLETELY agree with. First. BERTIE FREAKING CARVEL! If he does not win the Tony Award this Sunday, I will revolt like the children in the show. His performance was flawless . He made my skin crawl from his visciousness, and I felt his pain in some of his more emotional scenes. His portrayal of Miss Trunchbull was so well created that I at no point thought I was watching a man playing a woman. Bertie Carvel was Miss Trunchbull.
I am not going to say which Matilda I saw (because it shouldn't matter). But she was a superstar on stage. Although one of the youngest, smallest members of the company, she commanded the attention she deserved as the eponymous character.
Technically, the show was gorgeous. From the moment you walk in and see the proscenium covered with Scrabble tile-like letters, you know you are in for a treat. The set was simple in looks, but complex in use. Things went in and out of the wood floor with ease, creating the library, home, and school quickly and efficiently. The lighting was phenomenal, especially with some surprises that will please any audience. The coolest thing for me was when Matilda used her powers and things moved by themselves. I couldn't figure out how they made the tricks worked, which made it super effective as an audience member. Most times the theatre-maker in me can figure out how things happen, but I was as dumbfounded as Trunchbull when Matilda made the chalk move.
I understand why MATILDA got the hype it did and am glad it is a success. I am interested to see how it fares come Sunday.