Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (2023)

A podcast interview with Tony Award-winning director Matthew Warchus, screenwriter Dennis Kelly, musician-comedian Tim Minchin, and actress Alisha Weir.
The Children’s Book Review

In this episode, cast and crew members talk about Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, an adaptation of the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical.

Matilda tells the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a sharp mind and a vivid imagination, dares to take a stand to change her story with miraculous results.

Today’s guests include Tony Award-winning director Matthew Warchus and screenwriter Dennis Kelly— who has adapted the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production for the big screen. The movie features music and lyrics from musician and comedian Tim Minchin, who is also here. And to top it off, you’ll hear from Alisha Weir, who plays none other than Matilda herself!

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Bianca Schulze: Dennis, I believe that you grew up on Roll Doll’s stories, but you came to Matilda as an adult. So, I would love to hear you talk about, like, what really drew you to the story of Matilda and why you knew you wanted to bring Dal’s story to the stage and now to the big screen.

Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (1)

Dennis Kelly: Yeah, I think yeah, that’s right. Like a lot of people, I sort of grew up with Dal in my head, anyway, but I think I was a bit older than the generation that sort of Matilda was really sort of meaningful for. So, I had to go back and read it. And I think what I loved about it was just the idea of this little girl just taking on the powers that be. It’s a really sort of revolutionary story.

But I think what I liked about her as well was there’s a line in the book. I can’t ever remember it. Right. But he sort of says that Matilda could read. She was clever. She did all this, but actually if you met her, you’d really like her. She was quite unassuming. She would seem like a normal girl, and I always want to write about normal people. I don’t really write superheroes and, you know, queens and politicians. That’s not my stuff. I like writing people that are just as bad at stuff as I am. And what I like about Matilda is she just seemed like an ordinary girl.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah.

Dennis Kelly: At the same time, she’s kind of a hero.

Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (2)

Bianca Schulze: Would you be willing to share just a little bit of your writing process? Because a lot of our listeners are readers, writers, and, at heart, they just love story. So, what does it look to take such a well-known book and turn it into a musical and then turn it into a screen? So, I know that’s probably like, a really long answer, but what’s the short answer on what that process looks like?

Dennis Kelly: The awful truth is the blasphemous truth is I read the book and then put it down. I felt that anything that I needed would stay with me and I could always go back to the book. So, I really read it once and then just went for it, because I think you’ve got to make it your own.

One of the things that’s weird about Matilda is there’s a couple of lines, like, I think dinners don’t microwave themselves, I think is one of the lines I’m really proud of. And about a few years ago, I realized it wasn’t mine, it was Roald Dahl’s. And I might even have that wrong because I can’t really remember which line I’m talking about. But you sort of lose yourself. You have to make it your own, and it’s not yours. You’re stealing it from someone else. But you do have to make it all yours so that you can no longer see the differences.

And one way of doing that is not to worry too much about what other people think, what it means to other people. Once you start getting involved in all of that, you can’t write. It’s hard enough to write things without all these monkeys on your back. So, you just have to keep it. It’s you, it’s the material, it’s no one else. It’s just you and that little girl. And actually, there’s not much difference then turning it on the screen. Like, when we started this process, it was really just me, and me and Matthew were the only people that were talking. It was small. And I think that’s the only way you can write is to keep it small and solve those small problems.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah. Well, Matthew, what about you? You’re the director. But did you read Roald Dahl’s books growing up?

Matthew Warchus: Yeah, I did a few of them. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, I think were the ones that were suitable for my age as I was growing up at that time.

So, Dennis said something just recently where he said that he’d heard Dahl’s writing described as being written, that he was writing with relish. And I thought that is a really great way to describe it. There’s such a lot of energy in the writing and rule bending, which is great.

And I think the other thing that is particularly true of Matilda, particularly, and true of everything that Dahl has written. Someone once said that he speaks to the adults in children, to the adult in a child, and to the child in an adult. And I think that happens over and over again. And it’s the central theme in Matilda, this interesting play between adults and children, and how sometimes that gets turned upside down.

And there’s various examples, of course, in Matilda where she’s the adult, Matilda is the adult and the adults near her childlike. I say that because I think that the depth that’s in Dahl, as well as the entertaining relish and the color and the mess of it, the energy, the depth, the emotional depth is a really important factor.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah, well, the characters in all of his books are always just so unique and quirky. And particularly in Matilda, we’ve got such strong characters. So, I’m just curious about the casting process. When you go into that, do you go in knowing what you’re looking for, or do you go into it waiting to be surprised and being like, oh, this is it. This is the person that’s going to play this character. How does that work for you with such amazing characters to fill?

Matthew Warchus: Well, unusually, Dennis and I and Tim Minchin who wrote the songs, we all worked on the stage version of this show as well, which has been which was about 13-14 years ago. We were working on that. And then we’re working on the film version now. And so, we’ve spent a lot of time with these characters, and we’ve seen actually lots of different people play these parts, but there’s always been something in common.

And also, the other thing to remember is that in the book, Quentin Blake did illustrations of the characters, which were very vivid and get stuck in your brain as well. They are an outward kind of physical manifestation of the characters that’s partly in your head when you’re thinking about them. So, yeah, I think what I’ve found is that the way Dennis has written this, and Tim has written each character is an opportunity for a great actor to perform not only outrageous, exaggerated performance style, but also to have a surprising amount of truth in them and detail. So, they respond well to—really what I’m saying is they respond well to really good actors because the material is really good, and they’ve got something to get their teeth into. So that’s actually the main thing, is, like, really good actors are drawn to it.

And I found that it was such a treat to be able to realize there was such a lot of enthusiasm for people who wanted to play these different parts. And I think the cast we ended up with are phenomenal across the board.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah. Well, I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I think one of my favorite lines is Emma Thompson in the scene, it’s a little dark and she says, I’ve been busy. But she like, I mean, everybody that’s listening is just going to go have to watch the movie to know what I’m talking about. But just that little, like such a simple little line. And that was everything for me.

Dennis Kelly: I think that line is a very interesting line, because what Emma brings to that is she brings this sense of absolute madness and danger. But also, she’s enjoying herself so much doing it, that there’s still an element of fun. And that’s really important because that character needs danger. She needs to be dangerous. Otherwise, there’s nothing for Matilda to fight against. But if she’s too dangerous, you’ve got kids running out, running out in the cinema. So weirdly, Emma manages to do this really strange balancing act where she allows it to be kind of terrifying, but also doesn’t terrify you too much.

(Video) Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical: Interviews With the Cast and Scenes From the Movie

Bianca Schulze: Yeah.

All right, well, I want to hear if you each just have a quick highlight without obviously a spoiler moment, what would be a highlight? Either from just being part of the creation or when you’re sitting down and watching the final product. Who wants to go first? Matthew?

Matthew Warchus: The whole process of making a big movie out of this, so creating more scale and scope and being able to be outside in nature by a lake, up in the sky, in the woods, in rain and different weather, these are things that I don’t usually get. My background is theater directing, and I don’t usually get to interact with the weather and the natural world. And I love being able to use my imagination and our imagination to say, what if the story went here? And what if the story went there?

So, without, like you say, creating spoilers, there are various moments where we go out and it gets bigger and bigger in a way that would be impossible to contain on stage. And that happens several times in the film. Sometimes it’s the scale of the number of people who are in the shot, 200 people in a shot, or sometimes it’s to do with where you are geographically or in the weather. And I love that it’s a whole new set of tools and emotional impact available, which I really enjoyed.

Dennis Kelly: I think for me, Matilda tells a story in this, which is totally my invention. And I remember the first time I gave that to Roald Dahl’s widow, she used to run the Dahl estate. And I remember the first time giving her the script, thinking, this is really cheeky. I’ve just written an entire story and jammed it into this. And she was lovely. She really liked it. And actually, it’s the resolution of that story. I think the way we’ve done it in the film is the best it’s ever been. And the story is very personal to me, not only because I wrote it, but just for personal reasons. Like, it’s something that really means something to me. So, to see that kind of realized in this special way on screen, I think that’s probably my favorite moment.

Bianca Schulze: Hi, Tim.

Tim Minchin: Hi. How are you?

Bianca Schulze: I’m good. You and I actually have something in common. We’re both Australian.

Tim Minchin: All right!

Bianca Schulze: So, I imagine that, like me, you grew up on a pretty healthy dose of Roald Dahl books, am I right?

Tim Minchin: Yeah. It was completely ubiquitous, wasn’t it? Obviously, your younger than me, but it was pretty much in my childhood Roald Dahl and then other. My first book I ever read, I think, was The Magic Finger, my first chapter book. And I read them all, every single one, really, and all the adult ones eventually. All the weird, perverted adult ones. But, yeah, very, very influential. BFG, Danny Champion of the World, and probably the least influential being Matilda, because it was very late, and I was a teenager by then. But I still read it because I had a little sister, and I used that as an excuse to read it.

Bianca Schulze: I love it. That was the same for me, actually. We may not be too far off in age. Matilda, I was on the cusp of not reading that, so I actually didn’t come to Matilda until I was an adult. But she’s just such a great character. Well, I really want to dive into what it means to create music and lyrics for a show such as Matilda for both the stage and now for the screen. I have created a couple of picture books. And when you’re writing picture books, you have to leave room for the illustrator to breathe so that you’re not just repeating the same stuff. So, I imagine that there’s some sort of dancing between creating music and lyrics that go with the script and the words that the actors are presenting. So, will you talk to us a little bit about what it takes to create the music?

Tim Minchin: Sure. That’s a very good observation. And I like how you say words, and that’s the only time I can hear your Australian words.

Yeah, it is a dance. And perhaps like children’s books. I don’t know how much this happens, but it’s a push and pull. So, I came to Matilda with Dennis Kelly, having already written an adaptation, a stage adaptation. He’s a genius, Dennis, and he had read the book, like, once, and then he put it aside and wrote this thing, including before I came on board, creating a whole subplot, which actually solved something, which you have to do. A novel, children’s novel especially, is very episodic. It’s chapter by chapter, and a Dahl novel especially. They’re really vignettes, especially the first half of Matilda, where she’s just doing tricks on her parents and stuff.

You actually need a better narrative through line, and Dennis had solved that with the subplot of the acrobat and the escapologist. However, he had left places where he thought there should be songs or where he and I guess it was just him, and he had written some ideas for lyrics. And I said, please don’t send me the lyrics. I don’t want to know what you think the song should be about. Just send me the gaps, because if I’m going to do this project so to your point, you have to let me have a space because I’m an okay songwriter, but probably what I’m good at is having ideas for what the song should be about. And I don’t need any of your ideas. They might be brilliant, but I can’t have them. So that’s what happened.

And then we sat down and sort of mapped out. I did a whole flowchart with different colors. Chorus number, this will be a ballad. And different styles of song had different colors, so I could visualize what these songs would all be like way before I started writing them. And then I wrote them and, yeah, I stood all over Dennis’s work and he was like, well, you’ve rendered this scene redundant. And I’m like, yeah, sorry, bro, it’s going to be a musical. And so that was really hard for both of us at times, to let the other person’s work, take responsibility for that.

Or that I had an idea for a song that would sort of say, the theme of this area of the musical is this, and that really what Ms. Honey wants to talk about, is her house as a metaphor for herself or whatever. And he would go through and then seed all the things you need to make sure that when it arrives there, it arrives there inevitably.

And the wonderful thing about Dennis and I, with Matthew’s guidance and with Chris Nightingale, the music supervisor’s guidance, rather than this push pull process making us butt heads, it sort of made us fall in love. We just made it like— it was tough at times, and we didn’t know each other initially, so it was a bit like, I’m from Australia and he’s like, from London, and we were like, he didn’t know anything about musicals, and we were just acting on pure instinct, but we just slowly realized we adored each other. And he wouldn’t say that because he’s from London, but we just make each other laugh and laugh and laugh. So, it was completely joyous.

Bianca Schulze: Excellent.

Tim Minchin: There’s my short answer.

Bianca Schulze: I love it.

Well, so I want to just dive into one specific song because it’s kind of taking over TikTok right now, and that’s Revolting Children. And I just love that song because of just the anarchy and the whole energy between the music, the lyrics, and all those kids charging down the hall. But we’re not going to give away any plots here. I just want to read the lyrics here because I won’t sing them. But—we are revolting children living in revolting times, we sing revolting songs using revolting rhymes, we’ll be revolting children till our revolting is done. And it goes on. And I just love how it all comes personally, because one of my favorite Roald Dahl books is Revolting Rhymes, right?

Tim Minchin: Yeah. I stole that.

Bianca Schulze: Little Red Riding Hood whips a pistol from her knickers

(Video) Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical actors in new Netflix movie spread cheer and fear | CBC Kids News

Tim Minchin: From her knickers.

Bianca Schulze: I’ve always remembered that. So, for me, when I was watching the movie and listening to the lyrics, that just popped out at me right away. But on the bigger level, I love the whole just the whole anarchy of it. So how did that song come about for you?

Tim Minchin: Well, I think part of what’s funny about the TikTok thing is that it’s so out of context. I love that people love it. But Revolting Children is the result of a lot of things we’ve planted. Firstly, it’s a result of the whole story is a story about stories. It’s about books and stories and imagination and reading and love of stories and how stories can not only help you escape. Like Matilda says, they’re like a holiday in your head, but they also are like a key, right? She examines she’s like Cinderella. Oh, and she doesn’t do that verse in the movie. But Jack and Jill went up the hill. She’s like using books as a way of unpacking the universe. And she also uses stories to free herself, really. And because of that, I wrote a score that was full of games with words and letters.

And so, there’s a whole song earlier in the movie called the School Song, where the alphabet is hidden within the sounds of the song. It’s like a magic trick. And so, we’ve planted this idea of that letters are the building blocks of words and words are the building blocks of chapters, which Eric describes as a chunk of a story. And that chapters are the building blocks of stories and stories are the building blocks of life. Right? And then you have this moment when the baddie eventually says, we are going to have a spelling test and anyone who gets a single word wrong is going to the chokey.

So, it all comes down to letters in the end, this whole story. And then we have this whole song that goes we are R-E-V-O-L-T-I-N-G we S-I-N-G U-S-I-N-G we sing songs using rhymes and we’ll be R-E-V-O-L-T-I-N-G. It is too L-A-T-E for you. We are revolting. It’s just playfulness with letters. And then, of course, it’s also built on a pun. We’ve built up this whole idea that Matilda is a rebel, that she has started a revolution. So, they are revolting. It is a revolt. And I’m not sure how many TikTok people have even got that pun, but it’s a classic old pun. The children are revolting.

So, we’ve built all these building blocks leading towards that moment. And that I can be a total sort of trying to think of the non-swear word. I can be up in my own head about this because this musical does work on lots and lots of layers. But Revolting Children is a song of revolution, and it’s got all this angularity with the seven, eight-time signature and stuff. But in the end, it’s meant to make kids want to jump off desks and punch the air and stand up for what they believe in. And sometimes that means fighting.

Bianca Schulze: Yes. I loved it. It was such a release. It’s such a release part of the movie. So, I am curious because I love Naughty, and I love Revolting Children. I’m curious if you have a favorite song.

Tim Minchin: Well, Quiet probably is always my favorite song because it’s very unusual. It’s especially unusual for that moment in a musical like that late, the protagonist singing a song that goes that still and it’s actually very effective in the movie. It’s always been very effective in the musical, but in the movie, it’s very beautiful. I think. I’m not talking about the song. I’m talking about the way it’s done, the way Matthew shot it, and Chris’s incredible orchestrations. It’s very emotional.

It’s also very special to me because I get lots of letters from parents and kids who are on the autism spectrum about that song. So, I sort of accidentally wrote an ASD anthem because a lot of autistic people and some really special people in my life have identified that song as being a real moment for them where they felt like they were seen. And so, I’m very emotional about that song. I feel very lucky to have accidentally done that. Because when you make stuff and you must be the same, you hope people have their own experience with it. That’s the dream, right? You give them what you think it is, but they bring their stuff to it, and you hope that it means something to them. And some of the stuff I’ve been told about that song, you feel very lucky that you’ve been able to open a door or something to people like that.

Bianca Schulze: I feel like that’s the magic of art, right?

Tim Minchin: Yeah, exactly. You just don’t know who you’re going to affect and how. But if you try and write something authentic, you’ve got a pretty good chance you’ll affect someone.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah.

So, you mentioned just a minute ago what you were talking about lyrics, and you said, oh, wait, no, that’s not in the movie. So, I’m just curious, with anyone that’s maybe seen the stage production, there are a couple of differences. Do you want to speak quickly on what people could expect there?

Tim Minchin: Well, when you’ve bought an 80 quid ticket and a 50 quid train seat and a hotel room and you’re taking your family to London to see a musical in West End, or you’ve come to Broadway, it’s perfectly acceptable to have two and a half hours in the theater. You go in and you get this huge experience, and you go out and get your popcorn and your drinks, and you go back in, and there’s a whole second act, and that’s all fine. You can’t do a two-and-a-half-hour-long family film. It’s not acceptable. You probably can, but you don’t want to. You want people to just barrel through it.

So, a couple of the most fun songs in the musical, they’re really sort of cabaret moments. They’re like Mrs. Wormwood’s song Loud is really a satire. I mean, it says something about Mrs. Wormwood, but it says stuff you could get out of two lines. But really what it is a quite searing satire on anti-intellectualism. It’s really about one of the world’s great problems, which is that loud opinions get heard and good opinions don’t. But in the musical, it’s a celebration of that attitude. You know, it’s like she says, the less you have to say it, the louder you sell it, you know, and she says, what you know matters less is what you know matters less than the volume with which what you don’t know is expressed. I mean, it’s a Trumpian anthem.

You just don’t have time to spend that time in a movie, and you don’t want to spend that time. You want to really stick to the protagonist and to Miss Honey, and you want to get to that school, and you want to have them come up against the real enemy Ms. Trunchbull. You just need that narrative drive. It’s a different genre. So, we lost that.

Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (3)

The tough one was we lost Knock on the Door, that pathetic song which speaks to Miss Honey’s attitude about herself and has the fastest lyrics in a musical. Very, very fast lyrics. We cut Miracle down. On the other side. I got to write a new song to end the film, which for me is the greatest joy of this whole adaptation. As a writer, the greatest joy has just been watching it. But as a writer, I got to go back, sort of walk back into that aesthetic playroom and tie the whole thing up in a nice, neat bow. And I love that. I really like the new song. It’s very simple, but very it does its job, I think.

Bianca Schulze: Well, you definitely did your job. It was such a joy to listen to such a celebration of music and capturing all the different emotions. And as I said, for me, it was the anarchy scene that did it for me.

Tim Minchin: So cool, isn’t it?

Bianca Schulze: Thank you so much.

Tim Minchin: It’s a pleasure. Bianca.

Bianca Schulze: Well. Hello, Alisha.

Alisha Weir: Hello.

Bianca Schulze: Your sister posted a video of you online when you got the great news that you were going to play the role of Matilda. Do you want to tell us what went through your mind when you got that news?

(Video) Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical | The World of Matilda Featurette

Alisha Weir: Well, so it was on my mom’s birthday, the 10 December, and I think I was just doing some sort of class beforehand, and my mom was like, Matthew, the director wants to have a chat with you. So, my whole family was there my mom, my dad, my two sisters. I didn’t really know what to think or what to expect because I knew that so many incredible kids audition. So, I didn’t want to get too excited. I didn’t really know what to do. I was quite nervous just to find out because I just really wanted to know. But I knew that so many incredible kids auditioned. So, my sister was like, I’ll record it and just see if it’s a yes or a no. And she was like, if it’s a no, then we’ll delete it straight away. And I was like, okay. When I got the part, I just burst into tears.

I don’t think you can really plan before and what kind of reaction you’re going to have until you’re in the situation and it happens. I just burst into tears. I think me and my whole family were just really shocked. We couldn’t believe it after the call. We were just kind of, like, staring at each other, like, what do we do now? What just happened? We were just so excited, and it was just amazing.

Bianca Schulze: Matilda is one of my favorite ever book characters, so I would love to know, what was it about Matilda that you were most excited to even audition for the role?

Alisha Weir: Well, I think that even from the book, from the musical, from the movie, I think Matilda is just a really iconic character, and I think everyone loves Matilda because no matter what age you are, I think we can all learn something off Matilda. So, to get the opportunity to play Matilda was just absolutely crazy. And although since I’ve auditioned, since I’ve filmed it, now that it’s coming out, it’s very surreal, and it hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know when it will, but it definitely hasn’t. But I was just really grateful to get the opportunity, and I was really excited to play the part. And when me and Matthew talked about the character and how I was going to go about it, talked about some words that would describe her, like, strong and courageous. So, I was really excited to play her.

Bianca Schulze: So, what kind of work did you have to do to really get into the mindset of playing Matilda?

Alisha Weir: Well, I think for me, when they said action, I just completely take myself out of my shoes, and that was one of my favorite parts, because I got to play a completely different person and just leave myself completely behind when they said action, and go through her life and how she would have felt and just try to make it as real as possible and imagine that I was going through the situation like Matilda is. So, when they said action, I just tried to switch into Ms. Hilda. And then when they’d say court, just switch back into Alisha.

Bianca Schulze: How does that feel at the end of the day? Do you feel pretty exhausted switching between two different people?

Alisha Weir: No, not really.

Bianca Schulze: That’s good. Then you’re obviously made for the job.

I want to talk about some of the music and some of the lyrics that are in Matilda the musical. So, Tim Minchin, he is the music composer, and there’s a specific song that is the first song you sing which is Naughty. And I’m going to read the lines. I’m not going to sing them because everybody will turn the podcast off. So, it’s—Just because you find that life’s not fair, it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it. And also, there’s the line, sometimes you have to be a little bit—and do you want to say it?

Alisha Weir: Naughty.

Bianca Schulze: Naughty. Exactly. And I think that the message in that song just really sets up what the movie is all about.

Alisha Weir: Well, I think when you listen to that song, it basically describes Matilda as a person and her character. It’s just like when you listen to it or if you’re an adult or if you’re a kid, I think we can all learn something off Matilda. And even in that song, sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty. If you’re put into that situation, then it’s okay to be and you’re just giving them a taste of their own medicine, like for their parents. For her parents and for Trunchbull. So, in that situation, it’s okay.

And another one of my favorites is Quiet, because that’s really when you get to listen to everything that’s going on inside of Matilda’s head, and she just lets it all out, and you really listen to the words that she’s saying and the lyrics. And I think that’s another one that I just really like. And when you listen to those songs, you really feel like the character and explains who she is.

Bianca Schulze: Alisha, since this is The Growing Readers Podcast, I want to point out one of my favorite lines that you say, and it’s also why I’m a huge fan of Matilda, the character. She says, what I really like is reading. It’s like a holiday in your head. I want to know, do you like reading?

Alisha Weir: Yes, I do. I like reading, and we do it in school a lot. Because I do like different types of sports and stuff like that. I do like reading. I wouldn’t be as big as a book nerd as Matilda, but I do really like reading and enjoy when we do it in school. So, yeah.

Bianca Schulze: Do you have a favorite book?

Alisha Weir: Well, at the moment, I’m reading A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. I’ve only started it, but I’m really enjoying it.

Bianca Schulze: I have a teenage daughter, and she is also reading that book right now, so that’s fun.

I imagine that you’re pretty busy right now with the movie. Pretty soon it’s going to be on Netflix for everybody. I imagine you probably don’t really get a ton of time to actually sit down and read right now. Would that be fair?

Alisha Weir: Yes, because it’s like now coming out, it’s only kind of kicked off. And I go into two completely different worlds. When I’m at home, in school with my friends, I’m just Alisha. And then when I do this kind of stuff and interviews and press for Matilda, and when I watch it, I think I just go into a completely different world. And I absolutely love both worlds.

Bianca Schulze: I think one of my favorite actresses is Emma Thompson. And Emma Thompson plays Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda. And I want to know what it was like for you to work with Emma Thompson. And I also want to know what it’s like to be called a little maggot.

Alisha Weir: Well, it was because when I found out that I was going to be working with all of these amazing actors, I was a little bit nervous. But when I got there, they were all so kind to me and really made me feel welcome. And one of the bits that I loved the most was that I got to learn off of them and look up to them as such because they’d had a lot more experience than I had. So, I was really able to just learn off of them because there was a lot of things that I didn’t know that they would. So, I was just trying to be like them.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah. And what do you think about the Mrs. Trunchbull character?

(Video) Alisha Weir and Charlie Hodson-Prior talk about Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical on Netflix!

Alisha Weir: When I first saw Emma, she didn’t have any of her costume or her prosthetics on. And then when I did see her in all, like, her costume, it was scary. But then when she went, like, put her arms out like this and all the kids, we just sprint over to her and gave her a big hug. So, I knew that under all the costumes and the prosthetics, there was Emma.

Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (4)

Bianca Schulze: I love it. I think all the costumes and the makeup were so wonderful. So, I want to ask you some rapid-fire questions. So, I’m going to ask you some favorite questions. Okay? And what is your favorite song in the movie?

Alisha Weir: Quiet.

Bianca Schulze: What is your favorite scene?

Alisha Weir: The assault course.

Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (5)

Bianca Schulze: Who is your favorite character? Is that too hard?

Alisha Weir: Other than Matilda? I don’t know.

Bianca Schulze: It’s too hard to play favorites. All right. Well, before we go, I would love to know, is there anything special that you would like to share with listeners or anything you want people to know before they come to see the movie or watch it on Netflix?

Alisha Weir: I think that when you watch it, hopefully that all of the characters really intrigue you and you kind of go into this story with them and it’s like you’re really in the advance with them. So, I really feel like, hopefully, the main message that you take away and from the character is just to be really strong and have loads of courage and be really courageous like Matilda.

Bianca Schulze: That’s beautiful. Well, Alisha, thank you so much for spending some of your day with me. I really appreciate it. Thank you. You did an amazing job as Matilda. You should be really proud of yourself.

Alisha Weir: Thank you.

Bianca Schulze: You’re welcome.

All right, and then to close us out, I have one final question. And what impact do you hope that this movie has on its audience?

Matthew Warchus: Well, I think that’s an interesting question because you’d be surprised how, when you’re making something, you don’t think about the audience and what they’re going to feel too much other than I would say this. Years ago, when Dennis first sent me his first script, I felt very passionate about it. I loved it and I felt excited about it, and it made me laugh and made me cry. And it felt like it was hugely entertaining and also deeply moving and important somehow. Like it had a message within it or an idea within it for how to make the world better. And it’s very rare that an entertainment can contain such riches.

So, I think all I want is my job as a director is to try to make the audience feel some of those same things that they really care about it, they love it, that they laugh, they cry, they’re entertained, and also, they get something of substance from it as well.

Bianca Schulze: Yeah, wonderful.

Well, Dennis, I want to thank you for being cheeky with the storyline because it was so fun. I’m an avid reader of the books. I’ve been to see the stage production, and now I’ve seen the movie and it’s just so fun to just see it keep, like, finding new life and a new way to deliver, and it was just done outstandingly. Thank you so much.

Dennis Kelly: Thank you.

Matthew Warchus: Thank you.

Trailer: Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

Show Notes

Discussion Topics:

  • Screenwriter Dennis Kelly on the draw of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
  • Turning a book into a musical and then a screenplay.
  • The Roald Dahl books that Director Matthew Warchus and Musician-Comedian Tim Minchin grew up on.
  • Casting the characters of Matilda.
  • The highlights of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.
  • Tim Minchin discusses creating lyrics and music for a musical and screenplay.
  • The songs Revolting Children, Naughty, and Quiet.
  • How stories are a way of unpacking the universe.
  • Alish Weir talks about getting and playing the role of Matilda.
  • The book that Alisha Weir is reading in her spare time.
  • Working with actress Emma Thompson as Ms. Trunchbull.

Thank you for listening to the Growing Readers Podcast episode: ald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical. For the latest episodes from The Growing Readers Podcast, Follow Now on Spotify. For similar books and articles, you can check out all of our content tagged with

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(Video) See The Moment Alisha Weir Found Out She Landed ‘Matilda’ Role

Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (6)


Cast and Crew Discuss Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical? ›

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.

Who was the creative team of Matilda the Musical? ›

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.

Why is the Matilda the Musical so different to the movie? ›

Matilda's Storytelling

While the book version of Matilda is a brainy, precocious bookworm, the movie musical adds a totally new storyline about the stories she imagines. Throughout the musical, Matilda narrates a story to her friend, the librarian Mrs. Phelps, about an acrobat and an escapologist.

Who is the old couple at the end of Matilda the Musical? ›

The uniform is also changed to be appropriate to the student's age, When Matilda finishes her story for Mrs. Phelps, she is overjoyed that Matilda's true story has a happy ending, in which Matilda and Miss Honey live happily together.

Who plays Matilda's friend in Matilda the Musical? ›

Rei Yamauchi Fulker as Lavender: Matilda's best friend from Crunchem Hall Primary School. Matilda the Musical is Rei Yamauchi Fulker's first acting credit.

Is Matilda in Matilda autistic? ›

Matilda is autistic and a passionate musician. She grew up with her father and her sister, Genevieve, in Los Angeles, California. Her mother died when she was young. Matilda also has a half-brother, Nicholas, from her father's previous relationship.

Who is the casting director for Matilda West End? ›

The casting director is Will Burton, with Jessica Ronane as children's casting director.

What is the message of Matilda the Musical? ›

The main messages from Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical are that sometimes you have to disobey those in authority when you know they are wrong, and that you have determination over your own story.

What is the moral of Matilda the Musical? ›

'Even if you're little you can do a lot'

Size means nothing: everyone, no matter how big or small, is capable of making a big difference.

Why is Matilda a dark movie? ›

Parents need to know that Matilda is a 1996 surreal family movie based on the book by Roald Dahl. It includes a lot of cartoonish violence, nearly all of it perpetrated by a bullying school principal. Children who displease the evil principal are put in "the chokey," a dark closet lined with nails and broken glass.

Why did Matilda get put in the Chokey? ›

In the 1996 film adaptation of Matilda, the chokey plays a more prominent role. When she realizes her car is breaking down, Miss Trunchbull actually does send Matilda to the chokey to punish her for her father's actions. Matilda is later rescued by Miss Honey.

Who was the villain in Matilda? ›

Emma Thompson plays the villainous Agatha Trunchbull in “Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical.” Twenty-five minutes into “Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical,” Miss Agatha Trunchbull appears onscreen for the first time.

Why did they cut loud from Matilda? ›

Wormwood, "Loud" has also been cut. It keeps the focus firmly on Matilda's time tackling Miss Trunchbull.

What are Matilda's classmates names? ›

Hortensia, Alice, & Tommy

Alice, Hortensia, and Tommy are classmates of Matilda who each sing solos, and Hortensia has a few lines. These roles are great for good singers and movers who may be newer to the stage.

What does Matilda's brother call her? ›

In the 1996 film, Michael bullies Matilda and his nickname for her is Dip Face. He wants to be an only child.

Who was Matilda jealous of? ›

Madame Forestier treats Mathilde kindly, but Mathilde is bitterly jealous of Madame Forestier's wealth, and the kindness pains her.

What disease does Matilda have? ›

At the age of two, Matilda was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (VEDS), a rare genetic condition that often makes the blood vessels and organs fragile and prone to rupture. Because of this diagnosis, seemingly routine, normal activities could prove to be deadly for Matilda.

What is the IQ of Matilda? ›

Clearly nobody affiliated with this picture ever heard of genetics: Matilda (Mara Wilson) is a perfect little English schoolchild with an IQ of 450, and what she's doing in a house in the scruffy 'burbs that looks like it was decorated by the Knights of Columbus is never explained, presumably because it can't.

What language does Matilda speak? ›

Also amusing are Miss Trunchbull's musical numbers “The Hammer” and “The Smell of Rebellion.” Toward the end of the evening, when Matilda speaks fluent Russian with a mafia don, I was relived to discover that Matilda was, indeed, speaking a foreign language. Brilliantly, I might add.

How much does Matilda on West End get paid? ›

However, the girls who play Matilda are paid only £60 if they are called on to perform — and £30 when they turn up but remain on standby. The girls, aged 9 and 10, typically perform in two shows a week, and can boost their earnings to £250 with rehearsal and stand-by fees.

How old is Matilda? ›

In Roald Dahl's book, she's five years old; in the 1996 film, she's six and a half; and in the musical, she's back to being five. Additionally, in the book and film, she has an older brother, Michael; in the musical versions, Michael doesn't exist. "Matilda is not like other kids.

How many Matildas are there? ›

A day in the life of four girls called Matilda.

Why is Matilda important to the story? ›

Dahl wrote his main character to challenge the powerful adults in her life. Although the adults are scary and mean, Matilda uses her telekinesis to play tricks on those trying to control her life.

Does Matilda have a happy ending? ›

Matilda asks permission to live with Miss Honey, to which her parents rather distractedly agree. Matilda and Miss Honey find their happy ending, as the Wormwoods drive away, never to be seen again.

Why don't Matilda's parents like her? ›

Her parents do not recognize her great intelligence and show little interest in her, particularly her father, a secondhand car dealer who verbally abuses her. She then gets adopted by Miss Honey, who has taught her at her school, who is very nice to her and does notice her intelligence.

What happens at the end of Matilda the Musical? ›

In the end, Miss Honey takes over the school and has it renamed “The Big Friendly School.” Matilda keeps her friends and still sees Mrs. Phelps, and she now has a happy new life with Miss Honey (“Still Holding My Hand”).

Why do people like Matilda? ›

She is brave and stands up for herself against people who are way elder, larger and stronger than her, which includes her parents and Trunchbull. She helps Miss Honey find the courage to stand up to her evil aunt Miss Trunchbull and reclaim her home.

Is Matilda based on real life? ›

Matilda is not based on a true story and was completely invented by the author, Roald Dahl, so it is fiction.

What is unusual about Matilda? ›

Matilda is an unusual girl. She's a bookworm, her parents are abusive and her school headmistress is a battle-axe.

What abuse did Matilda go through? ›

By Roald Dahl

There's physical, mental, and emotional abuse of both children and adults. The Trunchbull is as likely to hurl insults at someone as she is to hurl that someone across the field. At best, Matilda's parents ignore her; at worst, her father accuses her of lying and cheating, and screams at her.

What is Miss Honey's secret in Matilda? ›

Miss Honey's Big Secret

Miss Honey tells Matilda that she told her controlling aunt she was leaving after she had already packed her things in a cardboard box.

What did Matilda get accused of? ›

Answer and Explanation: Miss Trunchbull accuses Matilda of putting a newt in her glass of water in the book Matilda. It was actually Lavender, one of the other students, who put the newt in the glass, but when Miss Trunchbull blames Matilda, Lavender does not speak up to take the blame.

Who killed Matilda's dad? ›

He was killed by Agatha Trunchbull but it was ruled as suicide by police, due to there being no other explanation.

Did Miss Trunchbull abuse Miss Honey? ›

Miss Honey lost both her parents and her aunt, Miss Trunchbull, the villain of the story, became her viciously abusive guardian. Miss Trunchbull lives in Miss Honey's house and enjoys the inheritance that should be her's.

Was Mrs Trunchbull evil? ›

In the book, the Trunchbull is mentioned in passing by Dahl as the evil headmistress of Crunchem Hall. She is then glossed over by Miss Honey.

Why did Mr Wormwood call Matilda a liar? ›

Mr. Wormwood felt small as he had needed a paper and pencil to arrive at the same answer. Feeling inferior, he rejected the possibility his daughter was intelligent and decided to call her a liar and cheat. Once more, Matilda began to plot revenge.

Why does Mr Wormwood hate Matilda? ›

Because of his dishonesty and perceived self-importance, Matilda detests her father. He detests her in return; he doesn't like Matilda at all and doesn't care that she's extremely intelligent. Instead, he's actually offended that she can amuse herself with books when he can't (Mr.

Why did Mr Wormwood get mad at Matilda? ›

Summary: Chapter 4: The Ghost

The next week, Matilda's father does not bully her. After a bad day at work, however, he comes home and becomes angry that Matilda is reading a book instead of watching the television.

How much older was Matilda's brother than her? ›

He was much older, being 24 when he was formally betrothed to the 8 year-old Matilda, though they married several years later. Despite the age difference, it seems Henry allowed Matilda to take an active part in government, and trusted her with regency in Italy for two years while he was elsewhere in the empire.

Who is Matilda's favorite teacher? ›

Miss Honey, Matilda's teacher and favorite! Dahl's MATILDA The Musical, opening Jan.

Who was Matilda's best friend? ›

Kiami Davael as Lavender; Matilda's best friend and fellow classmate. Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp; Matilda's timid classmate who has pigtails which Miss Trunchbull hates.

What is Miss Honey's full name Matilda? ›

Miss Jennifer "Jenny" Honey is the deuteragonist of the 1988 Roald Dahl novel Matilda, and it's movie adaptations.

Why does Matilda's dad have green hair? ›

Matilda dyes her dad's hair green, not blonde.

This choice emanates from the stage show, in which Harry Wormwood's hair is dyed green, not blonde like in the 1996 film. I believe this is done because a bright green wig stands out more from the rafters of the Cambridge Theatre in the West-End.

What does Matilda's dad say to her? ›

Harry Wormwood : Listen, you little wiseacre: I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Who did Matilda marry and why? ›

On Emperor Henry V's death, Matilda was recalled to Normandy by her father, who arranged for her to marry Geoffrey of Anjou to form an alliance to protect his southern borders.

Who did Matilda not like to visit? ›

Why did Matilda not like to visit her rich friend? Matilda had inferiority complex. Whenever she visitedier rich friend she felt dejected and disappointed because of her poverty. She used to compare her lodgings to that of her friend's.

Who is the main antagonist in Matilda? ›

Agatha Trunchbull, also known as Miss Trunchbull or Miss Agatha Trunchbull or simply The Trunchbull, the fictional headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School (or Elementary School), is the main antagonist in Roald Dahl's 1988 novel Matilda and its spinoffs: the 1996 film Matilda (played by Pam Ferris), the 2011 ...

Who is the Red Beret dancer in Matilda? ›

And then there is the legend, the icon, the queen herself, the Red-Beret Girl played by Meesha Garbett. Garbett told Rolling Stone she doesn't know if she'd call herself a professional dancer, which is an insult to me, personally. Like Kane and Marcus, Garbett was surprised by the reaction to the TikTok.

What is Matilda's weakness? ›

Matilda's weak element is Fire. You can scan her before the fight to discover that fact as well as what her resistances are strong against.

Who are the cops in Matilda? ›

Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter as Bob and Bill; two FBI agents posing as speedboat salesmen who are investigating Harry due to his illegal car business.

Who is the fat ginger kid in Matilda? ›

Well, Bruce like everyone else who was in the film, Bruce is all grown up and he's now a doctor and looks completely different to his Matilda days. Jimmy Karz is the man behind the cake scene and he's now 36 years old and works as a doctor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr.

What is Matilda adopted? ›

Her parents do not recognize her great intelligence and show little interest in her, particularly her father, a secondhand car dealer who verbally abuses her. She then gets adopted by Miss Honey, who has taught her at her school, who is very nice to her and does notice her intelligence.


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