As part of our bundle of gifts to the girls for Christmas, we decided to get them ticket s to see Matilda. Knowing that it was coming to Sunderland from the 8th of May to 2nd of June, we booked up early. Our pre-planning meant we had seats 6 rows from the front with a potentially great view.
Matilda the Musical Sunderland
We’d tried a couple of times to get tickets to see Matilda in London. But as our visits there have mainly been on Bank Holidays it always seemed to be sold out. So going to see the touring version was our best bet. I’ll admit that I had a slight fear that it would be a potentially trimmed down version to allow for transportation. If it was I’ll quickly point out, it didn’t feel like anything was missing.
We arrived at the Theatre and were shuffled towards a ground floor bar / holding pen. A location we’d never seen before. The queue for merchandise snaked back through the bar area and the must have been selling loads of it too. Our girls wanted the Official T-Shirts, which they will wear…once!
The Matilda the Musical Cast line up was on a display in the bar.
I’m not sure if they are listed in order of appearance, but surely Matilda should be at the top location!
We’d been listening to the soundtrack on loop since Christmas. I would have started before but didn’t want to give away the surprise. The Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin were witty and easy to listen to. Just as I have with previous musicals, I’ve listened to the soundtrack, without really knowing the story. And yes, this is another confession. I haven’t read the Mailtda storybook or successfully watched the film beyond a kid getting put in the “Chokey”. Abigail doesn’t like that element and it really freaked her out in the film.
On Arrival into the Stalls, you can see the stage set up with this cool, scrabble-esque scenery. While awaiting the show to start we were looking for words in the surroundings. Great fun and well tied into the story later on.
Matilda heavily relies on the children’s performances. It was incredible at times the number of lines that Matilda had to recite. Elements of a full monologue as she tells the Librarian a story. After previously seeing School of Rock and being wowed by the live instrument playing. Where that is mainly backboned by songs and an adult actor. Here Matilda has to bear most of the story’s weight.
Miss Trunchball, is a truly intimidating character and is well portrayed. Yet again Abigail got freaked out by the “Chokey”. Even though you never actually see it on stage.
This brings me to my final part of stagecraft. This is where I had concerns about the Touring production slimming down. I was relieved to find out that parts that had been told to me were included and it was brilliant.
If you have ever seen any publicity for Matilda you will have seen the scene where the kids are on swings. I think this is the iconic part of the show. Combine that with clever stage trickery, and a magical ghostly chalkboard writer and it really pulls together as a show.
Matilda the Musical Sunderland Review
Overall I loved the production, the songs, and the acting. I couldn’t really fault that. There was a technical issue that occurred mid-first half, where Matilda had to run off stage as she wasn’t feeling well. Our first Matilda was replaced by a stand-in Matilda. This did stunt the flow of the story a little as there was a 20-minute reset of the show, while Matilda 2 got ready. These things happen and when you realise the pressure that is put on her in the show, she had done a brilliant job.
We know the songs and half knew the flow of the show too because of it. So everything felt familiar and fun. The part we didn’t really know that well was the element of storytelling Matilda has to go to for the Librarian. It makes sense by the end of the musical, but the abstract, bizarre tale, seemed to pull back on the momentum the show had.
As I said we loved it, but I’m not sure I’d rush back to see it again. If I was more of a Roald Dahl fan, then it may have made more sense and would have been fine.
Matilda the Musical is on at Sunderland Empire until the 2nd June 2018.
For more information about the show visit the official website at