After revealing plans last March to open in New York sometime in 2013, producers of the upcoming American debut of “Matilda the Musical” have officially announced the four actresses who will share the title role. The show, based on the classic story by Roald Dahl, premiered in November 2010 at Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre in London, where it played to sold-out crowds.
The musical then moved to London’s West End at the Cambridge Theatre in October 2011. The producers reveled in its success and decided to open on Broadway. In 2012, Matilda won seven Lawrence Olivier awards, setting a record for number of wins for any musical. The awards include Best Musical, Best Director, and Best Actress, shared among the four young actresses playing Matilda on the London stage.
The New York cast, only partially announced, will star another four young ladies in the title role. Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro will alternate performances as the beloved and precocious Matilda. All four girls will be making their Broadway debut with this show. As previously announced, Bertie Carvel, the West End production’s Miss Trunchbull, will reprise the role in New York. Carvel won the 2012 Olivier award for Best Actor in a Musical in the role.
Carvel and the rest of the cast will hit the Great White Way on March 4, 2013 for previews, with an official opening set for April 11 at the Shubert Theatre. The four young actresses set to play the leading role are all seasoned young performers in their youth. Laurence appeared in the film A Little Game with Ralph Maccio and F. Murray Abraham. Gennusa appeared in “The Nutcracker” at Purchase College, and in a children’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Shapiro has previously been in a production of “Anything Goes” in Tampa, FL. Performance is in her family, as her sister Abigail just landed the role of Cindy Lou Who in the Madison Square Garden production of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” this holiday season. Coincidentally, Ryon starred as Cindy Lou Who in the national tour of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
All of the girls were drawn to the great story and message of independence, with humor and imagination, according to the Washington Post. “I think it’s a story about really being yourself,” said Gennusa.
For anyone who doesn’t know the classic tale, producers describe “Matilda the Musical” as a story of an “extraordinary little girl who decides that, despite a bad upbringing filled with rotten parents, a terrifying school and a vicious head mistress, her story is going to be an astonishing one” on Broadway.com.The Broadway production will be directed by Tony Award-winning director, Matthew Warchus.
The book is written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, and produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Dodger Productions. Completing the production team are Peter Darling with choreography, Rob Howell with set design, and Hugh Vanstone and Simon Baker with light and sound design, respectively.
“The musical combines childlike exuberance with Dahl’s characteristic touch of the macabre,” said Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press. “There is parental neglect, child cruelty, and even a monstrous teacher swinging girls by their pigtails.” Despite all the negativity, however, there is the underlying ideal of children being powerful and learning how to use their strengths to their advantage. As Matilda sings, “even if you’re little you can do a lot, you mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.”