Matilda the Musical has been described by producers as, “the story of an extraordinary little girl who decides that despite a bad beginning filled with rotten parents, a terrifying school and a vicious head mistress. With the help of her teacher, her friends and a little bit of imagination, Matilda proves that even if you’re little, you can do big things.” The Tony Award winning production is beloved by many, yet very few people know all of the fun facts and peculiar details about the show that help make it the spectacular production we see on stage. Well now you can get the behind the scenes scoop into one of Broadway’s most fun filled productions.
The book Matilda was initially published in 1988 and told the story of a clever girl with special powers. In 1996, the book was transformed into a film by Danny DeVito that starred Mara Wilson as the title character, Matilda. Matilda originally premiered at The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre in November 2010. It later transferred to West End’s Cambridge Theatre where it still runs. The show broke Olivier Award records by earning a total of seven awards, earning a coveted spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Matilda also continues its run at the Shubert Theatre, where it opened on Broadway on April 11, 2013. It has received four Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical, Best Featured Actor, Best Lighting Design and Best Scenic Design.
The Actresses and Actors
There are a total of four girls who play the role of Matilda. The current crop of Matildas consist of Eleanor Worthington Cox, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, and Sophia Kiely. These actresses are supported by three different teams of children who comprise the remainder of the cast. Open auditions are regularly held for the role of Matilda in order to meet the need to keep her small for the role at about 4 foot 3; while those portraying her classmates can be as big as 5 feet tall.
Actor Bertie Carvel played the role of the headmistress, Agatha Trunchbull. He received coaching from a former professional hammer thrower to prepare for the role of the headmistress who likes to throw children around. The suit he wore to transform him for the role was created by the RSC’s Armoury department. His costume even came with a prosthetic wart that had four hairs coming off of it for that additional gross factor. As of July 1, 2012 David Leonard took over the role.
Andrew McNamara shared some insight on Quora about the show and one of its major special effects. The scene where Matilda is able to write on the chalkboard using only her eyes involves the use of a fake chalkboard. Instead, a sheet of plastic is made to look like a chalkboard. Behind it is a screen with letters and a light. Individuals are in a space behind the “chalkboard” with magnets which pair with fake chalk pieces that have metal on the tip. As the people behind the screen move the magnets, the light shines and allows the letters on the screen to bleed through the sheet of plastic.
Initially, the playwright Dennis Kelly was skeptical about writing Matilda because he had never written anything with music before. As it turns out, his uncertainties were unfounded because he created an incredible production that shows no hint of his reservations. Australian Tim Minchin, who created the score for the musical, is most popularly known as a stand-up comedian. He recently toured the UK with a 55 piece orchestra performing music he wrote, although he can’t actually read music.
It is interesting to find out about all of the little quirks that come together to make a show as touching and spectacular as Matilda the Musical. From actors to special effects, all of these elements have made the production the hit that it is and will likely continue to be.