Theatre announcement: West End smash Matilda to play Sunderland Empire on first UK tour

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West End hit Matilda will be performed at Sunderland Empire as part of its first ever UK tour, the Echo can reveal.

The multi award-winning musical will bring Roald Dahl’s beloved tale to life at the Wearside venue for its North East debut for four weeks from May 8 to June 2 next year.

In a theatrical coup for the Empire, it will be only the third venue on the UK and Ireland tour, and is the latest success story for the venue which has also hosted the regional debuts of Lion King, War Horse and Billy Elliot.

The High Street West theatre is one of only 13 in the country capable of hosting the large-scale show, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

With book by Dennis Kelly, original songs by Tim Minchin and direction by Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical is the story of an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

Speaking to the Echo, executive producer André Ptaszynski said the tour will be the same as the West End version, which is running at The Cambridge Theatre, the only slight difference being that the classroom desks won’t be built into the stage.

Explaining the musical’s appeal, he said: “Every audience loves that it’s dark and funny. But it’s dark and funny while also making you really feel something. “You’re taken on this girl’s journey and the ending is a moment full of completion for the audience.”

The team behind the musical worked closely with the Roald Dahl Estate for the theatrical version of the children’s classic, which was first published in 1988.

Writer Dennis Kelly said: “I met with his widow and showed her the script and the first thing she said was that she loved Rudolpho, who is an added character.

“She also told me that I was to remember that Miss Trunchbull is a murderer. At first I was having a bit too much fun with her and making her too funny.”

He added: “But you can’t write with too much responsibility, because that’s not how Dahl would write, he wrote with relish because he loved burps and mud.”

Sunderland Empire general manager Ben Phillips said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the Royal Shakespeare Company will be bringing their multi-award winning production Matilda the Musical to us in May 2018, for the only North East dates on their UK tour.

“Audiences will be left mesmerised by this deliciously exhilarating and ingenious production of Roald Dahl’s classic book during the limited four week engagement. Early booking is highly recommended.”

Now in its sixth year in London’s West End, Matilda The Musical is the longest-running production at the Cambridge Theatre where it continues to play to packed houses.

The musical was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered at the RSC’s The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in November 2010, before transferring to London’s West End in October 2011, where it opened to rave reviews.

Winner of 85 major international awards, including 16 for Best Musical, Matilda The Musical has been seen by more than 6.5 million people worldwide.

The production will be accompanied in each location on the tour by a new education programme to engage young people, inspired by Matilda The Musical. From a travelling library of stories led by Mrs Phelps, to whole school takeovers of Matilda, the RSC aims to reach over 15,000 children, in collaboration with touring theatre partners.

Catherine Mallyon, RSC executive director, said: “We are thrilled our home-grown miracle, which started life after a seven year gestation in Stratford-upon-Avon, has grown into a bit of a global phenomenon. Following Matilda’s successful run on Broadway, our current tours around North America, Australia and New Zealand, and continuing into our sixth year at the Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End, it is fantastic that we can share Matilda with audiences around the UK and in Ireland.

“In collaboration with our touring partners we will also deliver a programme of ground-breaking interactive education projects to enable young people to emulate Matilda, sharing the extraordinary power of story-telling and the boundless creativity of their imaginations.”

•Tickets for Matilda the Musical at Sunderland Empire go on sale from 10am on Wednesday, April 19 to Theatre Card and Groups and on general sale from 10am on Wednesday, April 26. Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland

*calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

•To read a review of the West End Matilda CLICK HERE or see Thursday’s Guide.