I love musicals. As a family we love musicals. We all love the much-played stand out tracks from the Matilda the Musical soundtrack and over the years the girls have performed a few of these in various shows. We’ve wanted to see this show for so long, and since I purchased the tickets in March 2018 we’ve waited almost a year with the tickets on the study shelf.
The UK tour of Matilda the Musical only stops in one Yorkshire venue – at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. It’s a theatre we know well, having seen many shows there over the years. It was also the pantomime of choice my parents took me to every Christmas when I was a nipper.
Sitting in the cheap seats
It invariably happens to us: a show we want to see announces a tour and it’s coming close to us but we’re skint. When we found out Matilda was coming we were desperate to see it so I broke our budget to buy 6 tickets. At £35 a ticket to sit on the front row of the upper circle this was an expensive outing before we’d even got in the car to travel down.
The trouble with the upper circle at the Alhambra is it blooming high up and very steep. My mitigation to Helen’s exasperations that I booked tickets in the upper circle was that we had central, aisle-side seats on the front row. Had I been able to afford the seats in the dress circle or even the stalls (at almost double the cost) then I would have.
All that being said, we did have an excellent view from our seats – if we leaned forwards. If I was sat bolt-upright in my seat I could not quite see the front of the stage. Delilah and Verity had no chance. So, we spent the entire performance leaning forwards to peer over the front wall of the balcony.
If I book a show at the Alhambra again I won’t be going in the upper circle!
Not what I expected
We all know the story of Matilda – surely? Roald Dahl’s extremely clever and intelligent little girl who develops a superpower that she ultimately uses to rid her school of a terrible headmistress. Yes? Well, the musical roughly follows the same plot line. Roughly.
But there are some big differences with the plot – as you would expect with a stage adaptation and especially a musical. But, even with that in mind, the flow of the story isn’t what I expected and sadly this let it down a little for me.
I always love a set that is clever yet simplistic. On that level Matilda the Musical certainly delivers.
I always remember Dirty Dancing (the musical) for this reason when we saw it in Machester many years ago. A very minimalist set, yet you never realised it during the scenes. I felt like it was a form of trickery that the audience doesn’t notice it.
In Matilda the Musical there is a secondary stage on top of the theatre stage that allows scenery to be slide into place as if by magic. Added to that a small amount of scenery moved on and off stage to set each scene. Add to that the fantastic lighting and it’s all very clever. I often find the technical aspects of theatre productions very interesting, even moreso now that I am performing in one myself.
Some cracking performances
The cast is roughly 50/50 adults and children. The children are exceptionally talented and perform brilliantly. Maybe some of the songs are a touch shouty, but that’s the style they producers must be looking for.
There are a number of children that rotate in the tour so, for example, you wouldn’t see the same girl playing Matilda in back-to-back shows. One we saw was very good indeed.
Of the adult cast, there are those in the principal roles such as Mr & Mrs Wormwood, Miss Honey and of course Miss Trunchbull. But there are a number of swings too who rotate into difference supporting roles throughout the show. I did find it odd seeing the adults dressed as school children in some of the scenes.
Overall the cast really did put on a great show and clearly enjoyed performing for us.
Expectations not met
Overall, I don’t feel like Matilda the Musical met my expectations though – whatever they were.
Comparing it with other musicals I’ve been to see in the last year or so, it’s not the top of the pile. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen Rent, Funny Girl, The Addams Family and even a local youth theatre production of Little Shop of Horrors. In fact, if I’m honest, I would say I enjoyed Little Shop of Horrors more than Matilda the Musical.
There are a few reasons I think I feel like this.
First, there was a sense of expectation as we’ve waited so long to see this show. It was almost like it was never going to live up the anticipation.
Secondly, I do think where we sat played a huge part. Sitting the stalls or on the dress circle, you get more eye contact with the performers. That connection plays a huge part in how you enjoy a production. Looking down, as we were, on the show didn’t feel like I was getting the best experience.
Thirdly, circumstance. My mind might have been on other things such as the dodgy place I parked the car, the fact the dogs were home alone, I was tired and we had a long drive home. None of which are the fault of the production but maybe influenced how I felt on the night.
Pressure to enjoy it
It’s fair to say that Helen and the girls loved it. I kept watching the girls and seeing the joy in their faces and that’s enough for me. The shock in Delilah’s face when Mr Wormwood’s hair turned green is one I’ll never forget!
But, with Matilda the Musical being the much loved, multi-award winning phenomenon it is I do feel like the odd one out in my opinion of it. I have questioned whether I missed something. Is there something I didn’t get. What is it?
I feel like I am sticking my head above the parapet by stating that I didn’t really think much of it.
My gauge as to whether I really enjoyed a musical is whether I would go see it again. I’m not sure I would. Maybe if the opportunity to see it in the West End with better seats I would.
Thanks for reading.