‘Matilda the Musical’ at Shubert Theater

April 12, 2013 2:00 AM

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‘Matilda the Musical’ at Shubert Theater

“Matilda the Musical,” the London import that opened on Thursday night, is the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain, where it was nurtured into life by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In many ways this production would seem to be an example of show business as usual: It’s inspired by a book (the children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl) which was turned into a movie (in 1996). And in its melding of song, dance and story it’s as classic as “Oklahoma!”

But within its traditional form “Matilda” works with astonishing slyness and grace to inculcate us with its radical point of view. “Matilda,” you see, is about words and language, books and stories, and their incalculable worth as weapons of defense, attack and survival. It’s about turning the alpha...

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