REVIEW: Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical – Edinburgh Playhouse

With its origins as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2010 festive show, nine years down the line, Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda has been seen by over eight million people around the globe. Winning awards and smashing box office records wherever it goes (and deservedly so) the transformation of a much-adored but thematically and emotionally challenging children’s book was never going to be easy, taking its creators seven years to develop from page to stage – but boy was it worth it.

There are few other musicals, let alone one largely written for a child audience, that is a genuine emotional rollercoaster, laugh-out-loud funny and entirely entertaining from curtain up to curtain down for an audience of all ages. Never shying away from the darker corners of human nature, it re-iterates throughout that despite this one having one, not all stories have a happy ending. An unexpected and unwelcome addition to the grotesque Wormwood family, five-and-a-half-year-old prodigy with telekinetic powers Matilda (Scarlett Cecil), takes solace in books – from Austen and Brontë to Dickens and Dostoyevsky and finds a kindred spirit in her gentle and downtrodden new teacher Miss Honey. While she relishes starting school, the cruelty she seeks to escape at home is heaped upon her and her classmates ten-fold by their larger than life, ex-Olympic hammer throwing head mistress Miss Trunchbull (played to utter perfection and with great relish by Elliot Harper).

With a two-hour 40-minute running time, jam packed with dialogue, tricky lyrics and hugely inventive choreography and scene changes, Matilda’s success relies in no small part to a well-drilled cast, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quality one than this. Scarlett Cecil, one of four Matildas is an absolute star, it must be remembered that this is a child taking on this role, a child who rarely leaves the stage during the entire production, a child who is delivering complex dialogue and lyrics that those treble her age would find challenging. The entire child cast are exceptional (the adults are pretty spectacular too) not a foot or word is out of place and the energy and gusto with which they attack every scene adds a youthful realism.

Both Kelly’s words (perfectly adapted from Roald Dahl’s original book) and Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are clever, clever, clever and prove that there’s no need to dumb down to provide entertainment with mass appeal. As perfect as it’s possible to be, Matilda remains an outstanding musical in the British theatrical canon.

Runs until 27 April 2019 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for THE REVIEWS HUB

REVIEW: Top Hat – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

This article was original written for and published by www.thepublicreviews.com at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/top-hat-theatre-royal-glasgow/

Adapted from the 1935 RKO musical comedy starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, writer Howard Jaques and director Matthew White transport us back to the golden age of Hollywood and a glamorous, if more simple time: an era when plot lines were lighter than air and fluffier than a cumulus cloud. Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.57.47 Broadway star Jerry Travers has arrived in London to star in a new show; there he meets the glamorous and aloof Dale Tremont whom he sets out to win over. However, complications arise when she mistakes him for the husband of a friend. Throw in glamorous locations, comedy characters, fabulous costumes and jaw-dropping dance routines and you’ve got the multiple Olivier Award-winning Top Hat. Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 12.02.07 Played out upon a stunning design by Hildegard Bechtler, the set pieces include a rain-soaked bandstand, a horse-drawn carriage ride, a plane landing over Venice and stunning Art Deco hotels to highlight just a few. The costumes too are a treat for the eyes, beautifully designed with hints of Schiaparelli and Fortuny. But what makes the whole production sing with life is the fact that this is all realised in glorious technicolor bringing the much-loved tale to life in a way the old black and white movie never could. Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.58.04 As mentioned before the storyline is somewhat simplistic and some of the characters are drawn a little too broadly: the over the top “foreign” fashion designer and co-pursuer of Dale, Alberto Beddini being a case in point, that said, actor Sebastien Torkia manages to raise the biggest laughs of the night along with an hysterical Rebecca Thornhill as Madge, wife of Jerry’s manager; whose one-liners are gold dust. Mention too must be made of John Conroy as valet Bates, whose homilies from a diverse range of relatives include such gems as: “fair words never buttered any parsnips”; these asides delivered delightfully by Conroy punctuate the proceedings throughout.  As a nod to the original stars, the writers also cleverly manage to include a paraphrase of the famous quote from Bob Thaves about Ginger Rogers: “don’t forget…everything he did, I did backwards and in high heels”. Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 12.03.26 Charlotte Gooch (Dale Tremont) is one of the country’s finest dancers and she executes each routine with enviable ease, but the stand out star is Alan Burkitt as our hero, Jerry Travers. You would be hard-pressed to find a better dancer on any stage, anywhere around the globe, that he also has the most perfect, era-evocative voice and razor sharp timing is just beautiful icing on the cake. But it’s the glorious music of Irving Berlin and the exceptional dance routines that accompany it that makes this musical magical, songs such as: “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain”, “Putting on the Ritz”, “Cheek to Cheek” and of course, “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” that never fail to put a smile on the face of any lover of classic musicals. The choreography by Bill Deamer is the best you could wish for: elegant, inventive and seemingly effortless, it is no more spectacular than in the title number, where a chorus line of silk top-hatted dancers tap together in perfect synchronicity. In these cash-strapped, doom-laden times, a dose of perfectly executed, elegant escapism is the order of the day and this is old-school glamour at its best. This simply is top class – not to be missed.

Runs until Sat 13 December