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Theatre: Matilda

The Musical based on the Roald Dahl novel Matilda, which opened in Strattford in 2010. Moved to the West End in 2011, cleaned up on just about every award going, and made it to Broadway in 2013. Once again we follow young bookworm Matilda as she contends first with her appalling parents, and then with the far more terrible figure of Miss Trunchbull, monstrous Child Hater and abusive head of Crunchem Hall who intimidates pupils and teachers alike — only this time we have the whole thing set to songs by Tim Minchin.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Possibly more neglectful than actually abusive in the Wormwoods' case; on the other hand, the abuse Miss Honey received as a child has left her terrified for life. Worse yet, everybody else's parents make a song and dance routine about their own little miracles.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The musical adds a story that Matilda tells about an acrobat and an escapologist. Which, among other things, gives Miss Honey and Miss Trunchbull some very interesting backstory. It also adds The Mafiya.
  • Adults Are Useless: Mr and Mrs Wormwood don't care. The teachers are terrified of Miss Trunchbull. There's always the librarian in town - or if all else fails, The Mafiya.
  • Alliterative Name: Bruce Bogtrotter
  • Ascended Extra: Ms. Phelps the Librarian plays a very large role in the musical, while in the book and the movie her role was rather limited.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Upon ending a phone-call with the Russians, Mr. Wormwood says "Do svi-'doo-da'," a bastardized pronunciation of the Russian phrase "do svidaniya," meaning "good-bye."
  • Berserk Button: Don't let that equally-frightening soft voice fool you. Miss Trunchbull has many of these.
  • Big Entrance: Pretty much every one of Miss Trunchbull's entrances (ie. an ear-piercing whistle, shouting, or the moment we learn she's Miss Honey's aunt). Either way, you'll know she's coming. "Miracle" also builds up to Matilda's first appearance.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Or maybe your largeness is a bit like the TARDIS - considerably roomier inside.
  • Brawn Hilda: Miss Trunchbull. Played by a man, with a massive hunchback.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Mrs. Wormwood's nine-month pregnancy comes as a shock to her... She's further horrified to learn that she won't be able to compete in the Bi-Annual International Amateur Salsa and Ballroom Dancing Championships in Paris.
  • By The Hair: Miss Trunchbull hates pigtails and whirls one girl around by them with the strength she still has from throwing the hammer.
  • Canis Latinicus: "What is the school motto, Miss Honey? Bambinatum est magitum - children are maggots!"
  • Chair Reveal: Miss Trunchbull.
  • Child Prodigy: Matilda.
  • Competition Freak: Because of her status as an Olympic hammer-throwing champion, Miss Trunchbull takes this to the extreme. She always has to be the best. She always has to have the last word. If she can't punish one child, she'll immediately take out her fury on another. When Bruce finishes the cake, she adds a second punishment — Chokey. She even has a way of dealing with a group of kids who can't fit into one Chokey.
  • Creepy Child: Subverted in Matilda's case because she's really sweet. But one can not get over her rather disturbing story of the Acrobat and the Escapologist.
  • Crosscast Role: Trunchbull.
  • Cross Referenced Titles: Mrs. Wormwood's "Loud" and Matilda's "Quiet".
  • Crowd Song: Quite a few: "School Song", "Bruce" and "Revolting Children" in particular.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • "When I Grow Up" is a sweet song of children's innocent ideas of what adult life is, tugging at the heartstrings of all the grown-ups in the audience. Then Miss Honey gets her verse. When I grow up, I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown-up. Her fearsome monster was all too real and still has her living in fear.
    • Something similar is done with "Miracle" as the children, who have been told all their lives that they're amazingly special, approach the gates of Crunchem Hall and try to reassure themselves of that increasingly dubious claim.
  • Doting Parent: My mummy says I'm a miracle! This goes for all the other children, it seems; the doctor in the maternity ward expresses amazement at the sheer number of alleged miracles he sees each day. Eventually all these brave soldiers and pretty ballerinas get to school. There's a steep learning curve.
  • Dumb Is Good: Mrs Wormwood is a firm believer. You seem to think that people like people what are clever. It's very quaint. It's very sweet. But wrong.
  • Educational Song: The ABC, of sorts; more importantly, it's a guide to surviving your first day at a particularly tough school.
  • Evil Teacher: Up to Eleven from the book with spectacular stunts and a memorable Villain Song or two.
  • Flat Character: Rudolpho. His presence does not really alter the story in any way. The only bit that really adds to the plot is when Miss Honey starts speaking Italian to him, and he does not understand a word she says.
  • Force Feeding: Bruce Bogtrotter steals some cake and is forced to eat the whole rest of the giant cake. When he succeeds against all expectations, the Trunchbull is angry and throws him in Chokey for further punishment.
  • Genre Savvy: It comes of all that reading. The conclusion? Time to be naughty.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: During "Telly":
    Mr. Wormwood: Moby Dick. Easy grandma!
  • Glory Days: Miss Trunchbull dwells on her status as English Hammer-throwing Champion, 1969; it strongly colours her attitude and her approach to the teaching profession, along with providing her an... extreme option for dealing with the children. Especially those with Girlish Pigtails.
  • Gym Class Hell: A favoured approach when Miss Trunchbull scents rebellion among the children.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Nigel "suffers from the rare chronic sleep-disorder narcolepsy" — not really, but Matilda fabricates this lie to save him from Miss Trunchbull's punishment for a wrongly-accused prank.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Mr Wormwood, very dishonest as always.
  • I Am Spartacus: After Lavender is mad to spell a long made up word, the entire rest of the class misspells words knowing that they can't all fit in the Chokey at once.
  • "I Am" Song: Several: "Naughty" for Matilda, "The Hammer" for Miss Trunchbull, "Telly" and "Loud" for Mr and Mrs Wormwood respectively.
  • "I Want" Song: "When I Grow Up".
  • Inner Monologue: "Quiet," as Matilda discovers her powers. The world around her continues moving... and then time stops.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Poor Michael. In the book he used to be just an ordinary kid - stupid compared to Matilda, but so was everybody. Now he's gone full idiot. He's still no villain, though; he doesn't seem to have the capacity. Mr and Mrs Wormwood's anti-intellectual world of loud noises and bright colours suits him just fine. TELLY!
  • Knight of Cerebus: The Chokey. Miss Trunchbull constantly switches from funny to genuinely menacing, but the Chokey is never played for laughs, and the threat of being locked for hours on end in a pitch-black cupboard where you can't sit or lean against the walls without getting cut by broken glass or nails is treated seriously throughout.
  • Large Ham: Huge. Miss Trunchbull dances across the stage with a ribbon while singing about how to apply the lessons of hammer-throwing to life in general, and delivers the most terrifying of PE lessons. One must assume Bertie Carvel enjoys the taste of scenery.
  • List Song:
    • "The Smell of Rebellion":
      All right, let's step it up, double time:
      One, two, three, four - Discipline, discipline,
      For children who aren't listening,
      For midgets who are fidgeting,
      And whispering in history,
      Their chattering and chittering,
      Their nattering and twittering
      Is tempered with a smattering of discipline.
    • In "Telly," Mr. Wormwood lists a variety of authors and books including Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Harry Potter, (Charlotte Brontė in the Broadway production), Jane Austen, James Joyce, Ian McEwan, William Shakespeare, and Moby Dick.
  • Long Title: "The Burning Woman Hurling Through the Air With Dynamite in Her Hair Over Sharks And Spiky Objects Caught By the Man Locked in the Cage" ...and it is the greatest feat ever known to man.
  • Meaningful Name: The musical gives this to Magnus Honey. Magnus means "great" which is a common title for circus performers.
  • Mind over Matter: Plus some limited clairvoyance this time around? Matilda knows things about Miss Honey's past without realising it.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Appears at the beginning of "The Smell of Rebellion" when Miss Trunchbull interrupts herself to yell at the children:
    This school, of late, has started reeking...
    Quiet, maggots, when I'm SPEAKING!
    [Silence]
    ...Reeking with a most disturbing scent...
  • No Fourth Wall: Lavender, on occasion, and Bruce when Miss Trunchbull blames Matilda for stealing her chocolate cake. Also Mr Wormwood in "Telly".
  • The Not So Harmless Punishment: Bruce and the cake.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Amanda Thripp falls from the ceiling of the theatre after being thrown by Miss Trunchbull.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Miss Trunchbull does this during "The Smell of Rebellion". At the beginning of the song she declares that exercise will somehow make the children fall down and confess to their rebellious nature. While they are exercising, she suddenly and completely changes her attitude.Speech  Sure enough, this tricks one of the students into saying "She's mad!" and immediately resumes the role of evil headmistress.
  • Patter Song: This show is full of them — "Miracle," "School Song," "The Hammer," "Chokey Chant," "Bruce," the 'double-time' portion of "The Smell of Rebellion," and "Revolting Children."
  • Pint-Sized Kid: The child who portrays Eric is traditionally the smallest, making the character the easiest target for Miss Trunchbull's abuse.
  • POW Camp: The gateway to Crunchem Hall looks chillingly familiar. Tall and intimidating, it looks more like a prison than a school.
  • Punishment Box: The Chokey. But at least Miss Trunchbull only has one, right?...
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: As Matilda sings "Quiet," Miss Trunchbull launches into a lengthy, vicious tirade after the former defends Eric against her physical bullying. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood also have their moments.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Miss Trunchbull's standard policy.
  • Role Reprisal: Bertie Carvel and Lauren Ward, Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honey, respectively, originated their roles in all three productions (Stratford, West End, and Broadway). Both were nominated for an Olivier Award in 2012, with Carvel winning for Best Actor, and a Tony Award in 2013.
  • Sadist Teacher: The Trunchbull naturally.
  • Screw Destiny: Nobody but me is going to change my story. Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.
  • Shout-Out: To another Roald Dahl work, in the climactic song "Revolting Children": "We are revolting children, living in revolting times/We sing revolting songs, using revolting rhymes..."
  • Sinister Surveillance - Miss Trunchbull's office has a plethora of television screens surveying each room of Crunchem Hall. She is always watching...
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Unless they're terrified of Miss Trunchbull too.
  • Taught by Television: The Wormwoods.
    Mr. Wormwood: All I know, I learnt from...
    Michael: ...TELLY!
    Mr. Wormwood: The bigger the...
    Michael: ...TELLY!
    Mr. Wormwood: ....the smarter the man!
  • Trophy Room: Look at these trophies, see how my trophies gleam in the sunlight, see how they shine...
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The story Matilda is telling to Ms. Phelps throughout the story? It's actually Ms. Honey's backstory.
  • The Unfavorite: My mummy says I'm a lousy little worm, my daddy says I'm a bore. My mummy says I'm a jumped-up little germ - that girls like me should be against the law...
  • Villain Song: The Trunchbull gets two great ones in the form of "The Hammer" in Act 1 and "The Smell of Rebellion" in Act 2.

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