November 15, 2010 / 5:06 PM / 9 years ago

RSC gives Roald Dahl's "Matilda" musical makeover

LONDON (Reuters) - The Royal Shakespeare Company is giving the Roald Dahl children’s classic “Matilda” a musical makeover, and the man behind the melodies believes adults should enjoy his adaptation as much as kids.

“Matilda, A Musical” has begun previewing at the RSC’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon in central England and runs until January 30, with dates close to Christmas Day proving the most popular so far.

“It’s a great show for kids, but for me it’s more of an ‘Oliver!’ or ‘Mary Poppins’,” said Australian comic Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show.

“I get messages saying ‘I need my niece and nephew to come so I can see it’, but I say just come,” he told Reuters. “It’s social satire, like the Simpsons or something.

“I defy any 35-year-old rugby player with his eight rugby mates to come along and not laugh his head off and cry at least once.”

In the novel, published in 1988 two years before Dahl’s death aged 74, Matilda uses her magical powers to punish her odious parents Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood as well as her even more odious headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

According to Dahl’s website, Matilda is the biggest seller among his books for children, which also include “James And The Giant Peach,” “Danny the Champion of the World,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Twits.”

Like other Dahl stories, Matilda has already made it to the big screen in a movie directed by and starring Danny DeVito.


Minchin, 35, first thought of making a musical from Matilda around 10 years ago, and wrote to Dahl’s estate to ask about the rights to the title.

The estate asked him to send them the score, but Minchin dropped the project until the RSC approached him nearly a decade later and asked him to write Matilda for them.

“I read a hell of a lot of Dahl as a kid and ... for some reason thought ‘How is that not a musical — nerd vanquishes grown-ups with high intelligence and a bit of magic?’,” he said.

Asked if the pressure of adapting a children’s classic had got to him, he replied:

“Weirdly, I could feel cowed by the fame of the story and Dahl, but I never felt that even though I felt massively honored and proud. I kind of always thought ‘Of course it should be me and this is perfect for me’.”

Minchin wrote the music over a period of around 18 months, although he was working on other projects at the same time.

He said previews were “going great,” although there was still work to be done ahead of press night on December 9.

“We’ve got to lose 10 minutes which is a huge amount of time,” Minchin said, adding that actors are still being recast and dance routines changed.

The RSC announced earlier that three teams of young actors would share the roles, with Adrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths and Kerry Ingram playing Matilda.

It is directed by Tony Award-winning Matthew Warchus.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato

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