The main character in Matilda the Musical is “Matlida,” a five-year-old girl. This creates an unusual phenomenon in the world of musical theater. Producers don’t hire just one little girl to play a little girl on stage, they hire three or four.
It makes sense. It spreads the pressure and rigors of performing eight shows a week over several youngsters. That’s why when Matilda opened on the West End and Broadway there were four young actresses playing “Matilda Wormwood” instead of one.
The original four thespians in the West End production won the Laurence Oliver Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The actresses who played Matilda on Broadway didn’t pick up a nomination in the analogous category but they did receive a Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre.
Matilda the Musical is based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name. The musical is about the precocious Matlida and how she deals with her rotten parents and her evil head mistress. The show’s music and lyrics were written by Tim Minchin with the book by Dennis Kelly.
It premiered at Stratford-upon-Avon in November of 2010. It opened on London’s West End almost exactly a year later. The British production was top notch and received 10 nominations at the 2012 Olivier Awards.
In fact, it was nominated in all ten categories for which it was eligible. When it was all said and done, Matilda the Musical had captured seven trophies—at the time it was a record for the most Olivier Awards ever won by a single show in a single year.
The musical opened on Broadway in the spring of 2013 at the Shubert Theatre. There was pressure to set the show in the United States and make it more appealing to Americans.
That didn’t happen but minor alterations were made to Americanize the musical (mainly changes to the lyrics). The Broadway production picked up a dozen Tony Award nominations and won four of them. Matilda was not only a hit with the critics but at the box office too.
The musical broke records at the Shubert and prompted a U.S. tour and a production in Australia.