It's thanks to a Kiwi philanthropist and entrepreneur's love of theatre that rugby-watching New Zealanders get to watch hit musical Matilda, writes Kirsty Wynn.

Fans of the critically acclaimed musical Matilda have a fellow Kiwi to thank for the Roald Dahl-inspired show visiting our shores.

New Zealand-born entrepreneur, philanthropist, and media man Michael Watt is producing the award-winning show playing at The Civic in Auckland.

London-based Watt has his fingers in a fair few pies.


He's a business partner of former All Black captain Richie McCaw, has founded numerous charities, been a recipient of the New Zealand order of Merit and is one of the few New Zealanders to make the Sunday Times Rich List - with a last reported worth of more than $100 million.

London-based Watt - the only New Zealander to win a Tony Award, a US prize given for excellence in Broadway theatre - was instrumental in bringing the Royal Shakespeare Company musical here.

"As producer, one of the suggestions was: 'You have to take this show to New Zealand'," Watt said over the phone from London.

"There was a reluctance at the beginning but I said, 'This show is so good you have to take it over there'."

Watt said there was concern that rugby loving New Zealanders wouldn't take a show like Matilda into their hearts.

"I didn't want to let New Zealanders down so we cut a suitable deal and they have taken it there and proved it was warranted."

The show, which has won 85 international awards, including 16 for best musical, has played to sell-out crowds at the Civic, and received rave reviews and standing ovations.

It's no surprise to Watt, who said the cheeky Roald Dahl story about a sweet little girl with villainous parents was easy to relate to.

"It's the one show that I would 100 per cent tell people to go and see. It is beautifully crafted and it's hard to get something to that standard."

Part of the magic was that children are the stars of the show.

"Children are a magnet if you get it right," he said.

"It's the reason a show like this is so expensive to produce. You have such wonderful kids and you have to really look after them.

"It's wholesome entertainment."

Watt left Christchurch as a 16-year-old and his life hasn't been all stage shows and opening parties.

He's one of New Zealand's most successful businessmen and worked in construction and oil before making his fortune negotiating broadcast rights for international rugby, cricket and football.

Watt has also poured a lot of money into New Zealand sports, especially cricket and rugby.

In 2005 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community.

His association with former All Black captain Richie McCaw began years ago when he was asked "to assist to get some sponsorship money to keep Mr Carter and Richie in place", and was impressed with McCaw. About two years ago the pair, along with three others, went into partnership and set up a retail quarry, Sol Quarry, just outside Watt's hometown of Christchurch.

He described McCaw as an "interesting character outside rugby prowess".

"I was asked recently by someone in Dublin: 'Having someone like him on your board - is he a mutton head rugby player,'?" Watt said.

"He is as sharp as anyone on that board and I was constantly amazed how intelligent he is."

As well as his philanthropic work and business ventures Watt and his wife just splashed out on a Waiheke holiday pad.

But it wasn't one of the multi-million-dollar mansions local real estate agents assumed they would be interested in.

"We went there looking for properties and they showed me all these places that were in the $20 million mark," Watt said, laughing.

"I thought, where are you getting this from? We wanted a bach, a Kiwi bach and it has to be old and rugged and need a bit of love and work on it."

Watt said there was an expectation he would "need a living room the size of a ballroom and there would be people pulling up in Ferraris and Rolls-Royces".

Instead he bought "a tin shed" on a bit of land in Oneroa.

The bach though, with a 2014 council valuation of $670,000, is purely for relaxation. "We bought a tiny house on a decent-sized property. It is elderly and very suitable," he said.

"The most expensive thing will be an espresso machine."

Waiheke is also home to another business venture, boutique hotel and seafood restaurant The Oyster Inn.

Watt had links with the company in the UK and when it expanded to New Zealand he jumped at the chance to be involved.

Despite his hard-earned fortune, Watt said he has "little respect for money".

"Most of the people I know that are hell-bent on accumulating money are extremely boring and one-eyed," Watt said. "The more money they got they became experts in everything and egocentric in everything.

"I don't want to do that. I'd rather go broke trying not to do that."

And he has found plenty of worthy ways of spending his millions.

He has set up and supported numerous charities and projects in third world and war-torn countries.

So far he has built safe spaces for women in Beira and Bangladesh, schools for the blind, dental clinics and a refugee camp in Amman, Jordan.

Next week he is heading to Palestine with renowned guitarist Jerry McLaughlin to travel with a children's choral group he has funded.

He said singing is good for vulnerable kids' self esteem.

"It gets rid of a lot of pent up steam and does wonders for them."

A few weeks ago he was in Syria.

"There is plenty you can do and to say you can't because you might somehow be supporting terrorism is a cop out," Watt said.

"Even if it is in the Sahara region where there is no water. You have to go and see that stuff to believe it."

In October he will be back in New Zealand to give Matilda a good send off before it heads away on its next tour.

After that it's a bit of philanthropy and then Christmas at the tin shed on Waiheke.

And a few platters from the Oyster Inn.

He does after all own a chunk of the company.

Matilda is on at the Civic, Auckland, until October 22.