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‘Matilda’ adaptation brings childhood magic to stage

Posted on December 6, 2012 | by Alyssa Dvorak

With her advanced intelligence, a child outwits an evil headmaster and earns back the inheritance owed to her beloved teacher. With a fairly basic premise, “Matilda: the Musical” is preparing to bring a more character-driven form of science fiction t

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o Broadway this March.

No monsters are created, no science experiments go horribly wrong and no one travels to space. However, considering Matilda’s telekinetic abilities, “Matilda the Musical” can certainly be considered Science Fiction theater.

“Matilda” tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, a young girl with special powers, who is trapped in an oppressive environment by her dim-witted parents and wicked principal, Miss Trunchbull. Through her interactions with her devoted teacher, Miss Honey, Matilda discovers a crucially specific talent: telekinesis.

This precocious little girl first appeared in Roald Dahl’s classic 1988 book “Matilda.” Eight years later, young Mara Wilson played the character in the movie version, directed by — and co-starring — Danny DeVito. On Nov. 22, 2011 “Matilda” stepped onstage at the Cambridge Theater in London’s West End. Now, “Matilda” is moving to Broadway with previews scheduled to begin on March 4, 2013.

The audience is able to witness these effects not only through the reactions of the characters involved, but also through the actual demonstration of her abilities.

The special effects featured in this production are neither as grand as the chandelier falling on the audience of “Phantom of the Opera,” nor as quirky as those in “Mary Poppins,” when Mary pulls an entire showroom of furniture out of her bag. However, the effects necessary to showcase Matilda’s special talent still mesmerize the audience.

Although “Matilda: the Musical” has a youth-oriented storyline, the production can still be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. With a script by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, “Matilda: the Musical” received seven Olivier awards and is still playing to full houses on the West End.

The Engle family of Madison, Wisconsin, who viewed the production in London, very much enjoyed the effects the production featured. “One of the best magical elements…was when Matilda [used] her powers to write on the chalkboard,.” said Julian Engle. She also said that her family “had an interesting time thinking about what machines were used to make that happen.

At what seems like long last, youthful science fiction has found its niche in theater through “Matilda: the Musical.”

“Matilda: the Musical” begins previews March 4, 2013 and opens April 11, 2013 at the Shubert Theater, 225 W 44th St. For tickets and more information, see matildathemusical.com.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 6 print edition. Alyssa Dvorak is a contributing writer. Email her at theater@nyunews.com.

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