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‘Sometimes you have to make a little bit of mischief’: Matthew Warchus’ hybrid approach to musical theatre directing

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While the contemporary musical theatre adaptations Matilda (2010) and Ghost (2011) share a director, Matthew Warchus, and also have designers in common, their critical reception and grosses have been markedly different. With a pop score and special effects demonstrating the latest innovations in scenic and video design for the theatre, and based on a popular Hollywood film, Ghost was much maligned from its inception. While it continues to run in London’s West End, it shuttered after a brief season in New York. Meanwhile, Broadway is breathless in anticipation of the quirky, family-friendly literary adaptation Matilda. This article traces the development of these musicals through opposing production models – the risk of the commercial production and the relative security of the state-subsidized theatre – and explores how one director’s range and hybridity is bridging an increasingly polarized musical theatre industry. A survey of critical responses in London and New York, along with analysis of directing, acting and design will help to illustrate why Warchus shuttles so regularly across the Atlantic, and between subsidized and commercial theatre.
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Keywords: Broadway; Ghost; Matilda; Matthew Warchus; West End; adaptation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Groningen

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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