Newsletter : Matilda
Matilda: When I'm grown up, I'll eat candy every day
I don't know if you are a fan of
musicals. Usually, I can take them or leave them. I am, however, fascinated by
a new musical, Matilda, that has
adapted from the children's novel by the well-known British author Roald Dahl.
The book, also called Matilda, is a
typical Dahl story - an innocent, strong-willed child confronted by nasty
adults. Matilda's parents are ghastly and grumpy; her brother is a real brat.
Matilda, however, is a sweet and extremely intelligent 6-year-old girl. Her
awful parents send her to a school with the worst principal in the world (Ms.
Agatha Trunchbull). Miss Honey, her first-grade teacher, recognizes the girl's
remarkable skills, including a very special talent - telekinesis, or the
ability to make objects fly. She helps the spirited girl use her new power to
turn the tables on the wicked grown-ups in her world.
I have to confess that my interest in the musical is mainly because the lyrics are written by a clever young Australian called Tim Minchin (37) who seems able to sing witty songs about just about anything from politics to food.
Minchin has the kids in the musical use sophisticated words such as "subsequent" and "atmospheric disturbance", and there is even half a scene in Russian. Have a look through the lyrics for the 'School Song' below and you'll get a sense of how clever Minchin can be with words as each line reveals a different letter of the alphabet:
mommy says I'm a miracle.
My daddy says I'm his special little guy.
I am a princess,
And I am a prince.
Mom says I'm an angel.
So you think you're A-ble [able]
To survive this mess by B-ing [being]
A prince or a princess, you will soon C [see],
There's no escaping trage-D [tragedy].
And E-ven [even]
If you put in heaps of F-ort [effort],
You're just wasting ener-G [energy],
'Cause your life as you know it is H-ent [ancient] history.
Have suffered in this J-ail [jail].
I've been trapped inside this K-ge [cage] for ages,
This living h-L [hell],
But if I try I can re-M-ber [remember],
Back before my life had N-ded [ended],
Before my happy days were O-ver [over],
Before I first heard the P-ling [pealing] of the bell...
Like you I was Q-rious [curious],
So innocent I R-sked [asked] a thousand questions,
But, unl-S [unless] you want to suffer,
Listen up and I will T-ch [teach] you a thing or two.
U [you], listen here, my dear,
You'll be punished so se-V-rely [severely] if you step out of line,
And if you cry it will be W [double, you] should stay out of trouble,
And remember to be X-tremely [extremely] careful.
Why? Did you hear what he said?
Just you wait for phy-Z [phys. ed.]!
What's phys. ed.?
My mommy says I'm a miracle.
My daddy said I would be the teacher's pet.
School is really fun, according to my mom.
Dad says I would learn the alphabet.
Well, you get the idea - Minchin can make his lyrics do anything! As proof of that, the musical has been a huge hit in London, and this April it opened in New York. The producers held their breath - would the British setting, and British accents be popular with the super-critical New Yorkers? No problem, it seems. So far, the audiences are loving it. Here's what one blogger wrote: "'Annie' the musical is still going strong on Broadway, but it's a conventional show, the children all look the same and they sing expertly. In contrast, Matilda's lot dance using jerky kid moves; they throw karate kicks and pretend to be motorized. Which is actually how kids dance! There's the fat kid, the annoying kid trying to get everyone's attention and kids with mad hair. And the lyrics are innocently rebellious: "When I'm grown up, I'll eat candy every day on the way to work and I'll go to bed late every night!" The success of the show lies in the fact that there is something for everyone. Child spectators will relish the insensitivity of the awful adults, while grown up spectators will enjoy a delightful display of showbiz expertise."