Back in 2003, the RSC began work on the idea of a musical based on Roald Dahl’s book, after initial approaches from the Roald Dahl Estate. The first stage of creating any new musical is to assemble the best creative team. In the case of Matilda The Musical, that meant finding a playwright ‒ Dennis Kelly – to write the Book, bringing in Matthew Warchus as Director, and the anarchic Australian comedian, musician and composer Tim Minchin to write the music and lyrics. After extensive research and development workshops, led by Matthew and with the support of Jeanie O’Hare and the RSC Literary Department, the musical was ready.
Dennis, Tim and Matthew’s musical was brought to life with a design by Rob Howell, choreography by Peter Darling, orchestrations, additional music and musical supervision by Christopher Nightingale, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, sound by Simon Baker and special effects and illusions by Paul Kieve.
Matilda The Musical premiered at the RSC’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in November 2010 to great critical acclaim, playing to sold-out audiences. It then transferred to London’s West End, with Executive Producers Denise Wood, André Ptaszynski and Griselda York, opening at the Cambridge Theatre in October 2011, where it continues to play.
In its first year in the West End, Matilda received more rave reviews, and began winning awards.
In 2011, the production won both The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical at The Critics’ Circle Awards and The Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. It also collected awards for Best Musical Production and Best Performance in a Musical (Bertie Carvel) at the Theatre Awards UK 2011. It picked up four awards at the 2012 Whatsonstage.com awards including Best New Musical, Rob Howell for Best Set Designer, Peter Darling for Best Choreographer and Tim Minchin for the London Newcomer of the Year.
The production then went on to smash theatreland records when it scooped a total of seven awards at the 2012 Laurence Olivier Awards, securing its place in the Guinness Book of World Records for most Laurence Olivier award wins. In the process, it stole the title from the 1980 production of Nicholas Nickleby, also a Royal Shakespeare Company production, which had held the record of six Olivier award wins for more than 20 years.
In Spring 2013 the production opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre, co-produced with the Dodgers (Tony Award®-winning producers of hits like Jersey Boys), where it played for four years. It went on to win four Tony awards and a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater for the four girls – the biggest theatre prizes in New York – as well as five Drama Desk awards and two Outer Critics Circle awards.
In 2015, the London and Broadway productions were joined by the North American and Australian tours, co-produced by the Dodgers and Louise Withers, International Executive Producer – Australia, respectively.
After an acclaimed opening, and a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Musical, the Australian production played a sold-out season at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre. In July 2016, the production won all 13 Helpmann Awards for which it was nominated – setting a new record. Having concluded its Australian and New Zealand Tour in 2017, Matilda The Musical began its first UK & Ireland Tour in March 2018.
Since then, the production has travelled all over the world. It had its first non-English language production at the LG Arts Centre in Seoul, South Korea in 2018, produced by Seensee Company. An international tour, produced by GWB Entertainment UK, opened in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2018 before playing a successful season in Singapore.
On 16 March 2020, Matilda The Musical closed its doors, along with the rest of the UK Theatre industry, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 18 months later – on the 16 September 2021 ‒ the RSC was overjoyed to welcome audiences back into the Cambridge Theatre and play a part in the re-opening of London’s West End. A few months after reopening, cast and company members, both old and new, helped celebrate 10 years playing at London’s Cambridge Theatre.
The story didn’t end there. A film adaptation made by the same core creative team received its World Premiere in October 2022, opening the BFI London Film Festival.
Produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner for Working Title, Jon Finn and Luke Kelly of The Roald Dahl Story Company, Sony Pictures UK and TriStar Pictures released the film in cinemas in the UK and Ireland in November 2022. The film was released on Netflix across the rest of the world in December and it will be available in the UK and Ireland in summer 2023.
In total, Matilda The Musical has travelled to 91 cities and won over 100 international awards. More importantly, it’s won the love of its audiences, be they adults or children. So far, over 11 million people have seen the show worldwide. More than a decade on, the production continues to delight audiences of all ages.
Matilda The Musical completed its second season in Korea earlier in 2023 and is now playing for the first time in Japan at the Orb theatre in Tokyo.