No one saw it coming. A debuting musical theater team adapting a Roald Dahl children’s story about an unhappy girl whose life is saved by the magic of books? “Matilda” turns out to be an explosion of joy, the most exhilarating and flat-out best musical since “Billy Elliot.”…”Matilda” comes with a ready-made audience via generations who have feasted upon the original story. But this transcends its source. As with “Billy Elliot,” having the narrative led by the title character and numerous other children necessitates expensive multiple casts. But “Matilda” is so riotously enjoyable that if the figures can be made to work, its future could be limitless.
The musical is informed by one of the child-rearing currents of our age: that our kids are perfect, and no amount of attention paid to them is too much. The musical’s first number is a paean to overindulgence, as the kids, at one of the ceaseless parade of birthday parties that is modern childhood, sing a rhythmic line you won’t be able to get out of your head.
“My mummy says I’m a miracle,” chant the young actors, moving with uncanny precision to Darling’s arm-thrusting, hip-hop-inspired dances. Howell’s scenery — the walls and ceiling of the Shubert are adorned with hundreds of alphabet building blocks — changes with almost as much dynamism as the choreography.
Let’s face it: Broadway is expensive and so are children. Combine the two and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind memorable (but pricey) evening, so it’s important that you pick the right show for your child, whatever the age. After all, no adult want to sit next to a squirmy, bored kid, and no kid want to sit next to a squirmy adult during awkward moments of irreverent humor. After all, this is a night they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, so you might as well make it one of the best, too. Keep in mind that no matter the age, these are not simply “kid shows”; each offers joys for the more mature (and more seasoned) theatergoers among us as well.
I went on a recent client outing to Matilda and couldn’t have enjoyed it more! What a wonderfully perfect way to spend a New York afternoon with your child. I recommend it without reservation!