Based on a 1988 children's novel by the widely-loved British author Roald Dahl, the musical "Matilda" has toured the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand since its West End premier in 2011.
For its British producer, the Royal Shakespeare Company, "Matilda" is the second major musical production of works by contemporary writers, going beyond their usual repertoire of productions based on works by the literary legend of the Middle Ages. And for the first time ever, the British theater company is staging the successful show in a non-English production in Seoul later this year.
The cast of the musical "Matilda" are posing for a photo during a press conference on June 25, 2018. (Yonhap)
"It is about the power of words. But it's also about a story that can help change your life. We are very proud that we have Korea, and particularly Seensee Company have this very first non-English language production. The first non-English production in the world," the musical's executive producer Louise Withers said in a press conference announcing the opening of the local production. Seensee is the Korean partner jointly staging the show here.
"We have spent a total of 100 hours working on the translation of this text because of the nature of the story and the nature of the language ... to make sure 'Matilda' is going be the best it can possibly be in Korea," she said.
The Korean side associate producer, Lee Ji-young, said it took a lot of efforts for the Korean team to carry the original English version's ambivalence in text and philosophical depth into the Korean-language production.
"After reviewing the final Korean adaptation, however, (the Royal Shakespeare Company) staff members had confidence that 'Matilda' would work for any other languages," she said.
The story is about a precocious five-year-old girl fighting against incivilities by her unsympathetic parents and school headmaster to reclaim a life of a young female teacher with whom the girl develops a close bond.
Four Korean girls were quadruple cast for the role of Matilda while big-name stage actress Choi Jung-won was cast as one of the two playing the role of Matilda's inconsiderate mother, Mrs. Wormwood.
"Matilda is a very delicate mix of lots of different attributes. She's like nothing any of us have experienced before,"
associate director Nik Ashton said of the main character. "She's just a tiny little genius with an incredibly sparkling mind. I often say to the girls playing Matilda 'if you cut her head and open her up, inside her head would be an endless amount of energy, fizziness and thoughts.'"
The role is one that requires "emotional strength as well as physical and vocal strength," Ashton said.
He also stressed the musical's quality of carrying a life-changing story for the audience.
"If we have found us in a situation where we think our destiny, our fate is predetermined by someone else, Matilda gives us strength to know we have the power to change our own story," according to Ashton.
In 2012, the British musical won Olivier Awards in seven categories, including Best New Musical. It won five awards at the 2013 Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.
The British show is still playing in the West End of London.
The South Korean production goes onstage on September 8 and runs every day except on Mondays till Feb. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)