Lots of Dahl-ightful song and dance about Matilda The Musical

Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical, with Alisha Weir as Matilda Wormwood, successfully brings the magic of the stage show to the big screen.
Damon Smith

ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL (PG, 117 mins) Musical/Comedy/Fantasy. Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, Sindhu Vee, Charlie Hodson-Prior. Director: Matthew Warchus.

In cinemas from November 25.

Rating Four stars

IN 2010, director Matthew Warchus scored top grades for his euphoric staging of Matilda The Musical in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Christmas season.

The show transferred to London's West End the following year and continues to send terrific tykes to the Chokey.

Warchus reunites with composer and lyricist Tim Minchin and scriptwriter Dennis Kelly for a swashboggling, phizz-whizzing screen adaptation that retains the acidic tang of Roald Dahl's beloved 1988 children's novel and elegantly expresses the loss and reclamation of childhood innocence in barn-storming song and dance numbers choreographed with breathless abandon by Ellen Kane.

Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical trims 20 minutes from the stage production's lesson plan by expelling Matilda's dim-witted older brother, Mrs Wormwood's flamboyant ballroom dance partner Rudolpho and a few songs to maintain a vice-like grip on attention spans.

Warchus savours the opportunity to expand his playbox from stage to big screen.

Minchin's whistle-stop tour of the alphabet in School Song (“You will soon C/There's no escaping trage-D”) is no longer confined to Rob Howell's Olivier and Tony Award-winning set and gallivants energetically through classrooms and hallways.

The barn-storming anthem Revolting Children expands its deafening chorus to the entire student population of Crunchem Hall led by Charlie Hodson-Prior's chocolate cake-guzzling Bruce Bogtrotter.

The empowering When I Grow Up, memorably sung on stage by daydreaming pupils on soaring playground swings, loses some of its lump-in-the-throat emotional wallop when digital trickery allows pint-sized cast to ride a motorcycle or take to the skies in an acrobatic fast-jet.

Bookish wunderkind Matilda (Alisha Weir) has the misfortune to be raised by garish used car salesman Mr Wormwood (Stephen Graham) and his monstrous wife (Andrea Riseborough).

The precocious youngster escapes into fantastical worlds on the shelves of a mobile library run by Mrs Phelps (Sindhu Vee).

Matilda harnesses dormant telekinetic powers when she enrols at Crunchem Hall under hulking headmistress Agatha Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), a former world champion athlete who performs an exemplary hammer throw over the school gates using one unfortunate girl's pigtails.

Thankfully, caring teacher Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) recognises Matilda's genius and encourages her gifted ward to soar higher than the unfortunate and airborne Amanda Thripp.

Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical confidently combines sweet, salty and sour flavours, juxtaposing the cuteness and steely determination of Weir's spirited heroine with the comic grotesquerie of Thompson's tyrant.

Warchus overloads our senses in exuberant musical set-pieces, maintaining a rip-roaring pace until the film's new song Still Holding My Hand allows a curtain to gently fall over quietly contented characters.

Aristotle spoke the truth: the roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet.

Warchus's picture is a peach.

Damon Smith