Matilda the Musical
Music and Lyrics By: Tim Minchin
Book By: Dennis Kelly
Distributed by: Broadway Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda the Musical is the story of a gifted girl who dreams of a better life. Despite her youth, Matilda uses her wit and her magical powers to create a new and better destiny for herself. I had only recently seen the movie adaptation of this film and found it to be quite funny. I wondered how they would pull it off as a musical and was delighted when I received the Original Broadway Cast Album of Matilda the Musical for review.
As early as the first few tracks, we learn that although most people view their children as little miracles, Matilda's parents were none to pleased to have a child. In fact, Matilda's birth and subsequent life seems to have put a serious cramp in their style. Thus, they abuse the child, choosing to ignore her intelligence and other gifts and instead berating her and sending Matilda to a school that is certain to beat down any ounce of resistance and resilience in her. But Matilda, with the help of a sympathetic teacher rises above, turning the tables on the evil headmistress and her minions and finding a surprise - a new family in which she is cherished and encouraged to grow.
The story of Matilda, taken at face value, is a disturbing one when you think about the abuse and neglect the child faces, but when you add in the lyrics of Australian comedian, musician and composer Tim Minchin, there are notes of comedy relief that soften the blow. His songs never lesson the power of the message of this story, but add to it, going perhaps the comedic overboard to express just how absorbed Matilda's parents are with themselves and how cruel the world can be toward a child. These comedic moments present themselves in Miracle and Telly.
Then there are some incredibly serious tracks which can be uplifting or downright scary like School Song, This Little Girl and My House. My favorite track on the album is both uplifting and humorous. In Naughty, Matilda, in her witty way tells us that, in stories like Romeo and Juliet and Jack and Jill, the fates of these characters are pre-ordained because their tales were written for them. She tells the audience that they have control over their own lives and that, if they don't like the direction of their stories, it's up to them to set things right...and sometimes to set things right, you have to do things that might be considered a tad bit naughty.
The album contains some bonus tracks featuring a forgettable track called Perhaps a Child and Naughty sung by all four of the actresses portraying Matilda on Broadway (Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro). But the most disturbing of the bonus tracks are the stories Matilda tells about the escapologist and his wife and their child. It is during these tracks that, although Matilda would probably tell you different, you realize that Matilda deep down doesn't believe she will ever find happiness in her life.
The Original Broadway Cast Album of Matilda the Musical features fun music, clever lyrics and a good storyline. My only complaint is that, although the songs give you the measure of Matilda's wit, they never actually give you the sense of Matilda's other powers. Other than that, this is a terrific album that will capture the hearts of musical fans and make fans of the actual musical format of Matilda very, very happy.