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Review: Broadway's 'Matilda' is blast of nasty fun

Friday - 4/12/2013, 12:40pm  ET

This theater publicity image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows the cast of "Matilda The Musical," during a performance in New York. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)

MARK KENNEDY
AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The last Broadway performance of "Mary Poppins" -- that sugary-sweet ode to good children and even better caregivers -- was delivered March 3. Twenty-four hours later, the pitch-dark "Matilda" began performances a few blocks away. It was as if neither vision of childhood could exist in New York at the same time.

Well, say goodbye to perfect nannies and jolly children: This is the time for messy kids to be called maggots, adults to be either nincompoops or fiends, and for childhoods to resemble something more Pink Floyd than Disney.

The English hit "Matilda," which opened Thursday at Shubert Theatre, is a witty musical adaptation of the beloved novel by Roald Dahl and is true to his bleak vision of childhood as a savage battleground.

The musical arrives in New York with plenty of hype and awards, and it mostly delivers a thrilling blast of nasty fun, even if it's a bit swollen and in need of some fine-tuning. It also has come with perhaps its most grotesque masterstroke: Bertie Carvel as the fearsome cross-dressing school headmistress Miss Trunchbull.

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