Matilda The Musical simply gobbles up a reviewer's superlatives - sensationally theatrical, magically enthralling, outrageously funny but also wickedly grotesque and deeply moving.
Seven years after it emerged from the Royal Shakespeare Company's workshops, the multi-award winning and staggeringly successful phenomenon has (finally) reached our shores as an Australian touring production.
So many elements must coalesce to make a winning musical, it is difficult to identify what sets Matilda apart. For starters there are the children. Real children: spiky, belching, nose-picking, squirming, wild, revolting children - with revolting rhymes. To see these complex and demanding roles absolutely nailed by a gaggle of pint-sized prodigies is truly amazing.
Then there's the story-telling genius of Roald Dahl who is always instinctively on the side of the underdog but refuses to pity the victims of bullying. His stories demand action while stubbornly insisting our greatest resource against tyranny is the power of an unbridled imagination.
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The 70-year-old Dahl wrote Matilda in gloriously grumpy-old-man mode and the show delivers a blistering satire on the crass, shallow, hedonistic, TV-addicted nightmare of contemporary British culture.
There is also an abundance of brilliantly conceived characters who offer a weird mixture of over-the-top pantomime caricature and penetrating psychological insight. James Millar playing arch-villain Miss Trunchbull is both terrifying and ridiculous as a wildly psychotic authority figure. Lucy Maunder is endearingly sweet and painfully timid as the earnest, underpaid school teacher, Miss Honey. Kay Murphy and Daniel Frederiksen are suitably deranged parents and locally trained Travis Khan embodies your worst nightmare of a lycra-clad Latin dance instructor.
Among a stellar troupe of rotating children, Daniel Stow is show-stoppingly good as he delivers Bruce Bogtrotter's gleeful cry of triumph at the vanquishing of his oppressor and Izellah Connelly's Matilda has enough innocence, charm and attitude to melt the thuggish heart of a Russian mafia don.
What: Matilda The Musical
Where & When: The Civic to October 22nd.
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton