Caution: This is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers.
As a chorus of misbehaving children boast about being their parents' miracles, the ballroom dancing-obsessed Mrs. Wormwood gives birth to a baby girl called Matilda. The doctor thinks Matilda is the most beautiful child he has ever seen, but Mrs. Wormwood is only worried about a ballroom contest she has missed and Mr. Wormwood—a used-car salesman and television addict—dismisses the child as ugly ('Miracle'). He also believed the baby should have been a boy, and is seemingly unable and unwilling to accept her as a girl.
Five years later, intelligent and bright Matilda—an avid reader—lives unhappily with her parents and her older, uneducated brother Michael. The Wormwoods are oblivious to her ability and frequently mock and verbally abuse her for reading books. To teach her father a lesson, Matilda adds some of her mother's hydrogen peroxide to her father's hair oil, leaving Mr. Wormwood with bright green hair ('Naughty').
At the local library Matilda talks to Mrs. Phelps, who loves the stories Matilda tells. After a chance meeting with Miss Honey in the library, Matilda begins to tell a new story about a world-famous acrobat and escapologist couple who long to have a child but cannot. To distract themselves from their sadness they announce to the world's press that they will perform an exciting and dangerous new act. The next day is Matilda's first day at school. As the new students arrive at the dark, imposing structure, the older students warn them about how to survive phys ed (‘School Song’). Her teacher Miss Honey is impressed by Matilda's precociousness and intelligence, so she recommends that Matilda is moved to the top class with the older children, even though she is terrified of the headmistress. ('Pathetic'). However, the child-hating, disciplinarian Miss Trunchbull dismisses Miss Honey's suggestion and lectures her on the importance of following rules ('The Hammer').
At the Wormwoods’ house, Mr. Wormwood is frustrated about losing the sale of worn-out junk cars to a group of rich Russians who are upset about the mileage of the cars. After Matilda asks her father some pointed questions about lying, he destroys one of her library books to punish her. A devastated Matilda decides to punish her father by putting superglue around the rim of his hat. At school, Matilda learns of Miss Trunchbull's cruel punishments, including the Chokey; a tiny cupboard lined with sharp objects in which she locks disobedient children for hours ('Chokey Chant'). Matilda sees Miss Trunchbull spin a small girl around by her pigtails and throw her across the playing field. Meanwhile, Miss Honey decides to visit the Wormwoods to express her recommendation that Matilda be put in an advanced class. She meets Mrs. Wormwood and her dance partner, Rudolpho. It soon becomes apparent that Mrs. Wormwood does not care about her daughter's intelligence and she mocks Miss Honey's and Matilda's interest in books and intellect ('Loud'). Alone outside the Wormwoods’ house, Miss Honey is desperate to help Matilda but feels powerless to do so ('This Little Girl'). Matilda visits Mrs. Phelps and continues the tale of the acrobat and the escapologist. The acrobat's sister, a former world champion hammer-thrower who loved to scare the small children of the town, has arranged their performance. The escapologist announces that the performance has been cancelled because the acrobat is pregnant. The crowd is thrilled, but the acrobat's sister is furious at the prospect of refunding the crowd's money and produces a contract binding them to perform the act or go to jail.
At school, Bruce Bogtrotter, a boy in Matilda's class, has stolen a slice of Miss Trunchbull's personal chocolate cake. Miss Trunchbull first accuses Matilda of it, but then after Bruce Bogtrotter lets out an earth-shaking burp, it is discovered that Bruce is the culprit. Miss Trunchbull punishes Bruce by forcing him to eat the entire cake in front of the class, who bravely support him ('Bruce'). After Bruce has finished the cake, the class celebrates his success, but Miss Trunchbull drags Bruce away to the Chokey.
The second act begins with Mr. Wormwood and Michael performing a number that advises the audience against reading, in favor of watching television ('Telly'). Lavender, a girl in Matilda's class, tells the audience that she is going to put a newt in Miss Trunchbull's jug of water later on. The children gather and sing about their hopes for when they grow up ('When I Grow Up'). Matilda resolves to end Miss Trunchbull's cruelty.
She tells Mrs. Phelps more of the story of the acrobat and the escapologist. Bound by their contract, they perform their feat, which goes well until the last moment when the acrobat is fatally injured, living just long enough to give birth to a girl. The escapologist invites the acrobat's sister to move in with him to help look after his daughter. Unknown to the escapologist, the girl's aunt is secretly cruel to her, forcing her to perform menial tasks and abusing her verbally and physically.
Mr. Wormwood returns home from work pleased because he has sold his worn-out cars to the wealthy Russians, having used an automatic drill to wind back their speedometers. Matilda is annoyed at her father's deceit and scolds him, which angers him so he locks her in her bedroom. That night, Matilda continues the story of the acrobat and the escapologist. After years of cruelty, the aunt's rage has grown; one day she beats the child, locks her in the cellar and goes out. That evening, the escapologist returns home early and discovers the extent of the aunt's cruelty. As he comforts his daughter, he promises her he will always be there for her. Filled with rage, he runs out to find the aunt but is never seen again ('I'm Here').
The next day, Miss Trunchbull forces Miss Honey's class to undergo a grueling physical education lesson ('The Smell of Rebellion'). Miss Trunchbull discovers the newt in her jug; she accuses one of the boys, Eric, who has already riled her during the lesson. She starts to punish him. Matilda scolds Miss Trunchbull for being a bully. Miss Trunchbull verbally abuses Matilda, but Matilda discovers she can move objects with her mind ('Quiet'). She tips over the water jug and the newt lands on Miss Trunchbull, and climbs up her leg. After Miss Trunchbull leaves, Matilda demonstrates her powers to Miss Honey, who is surprised and invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, Matilda admits that her father is not proud of her and calls her names.
Miss Honey tells Matilda of her cruel and abusive aunt, who looked after her as a child after her parents died. When Miss Honey first became a teacher, her aunt produced a bill detailing everything Miss Honey consumed as a child, along with other expenses, and forced her to sign a contract binding her to pay it all back. Desperate to escape, Miss Honey found refuge in an old farm shed, which she moved into and lives in abject poverty. Despite this, Miss Honey finds beauty in her meager living conditions ('My House'). As Miss Honey tells her story, she produces a scarf, which Matilda recognizes from her story of the acrobat and the escapologist—which she realizes is the true story of Miss Honey's childhood, and that her wicked aunt is Miss Trunchbull.
Back at school, Miss Trunchbull forces the children to take a spelling test; anyone who misspells a word will be sent to Chokey. The children fail to misspell a single word, so Miss Trunchbull invents a word in order to be able to punish Lavender. As Lavender is about to be taken to Chokey, her classmates deliberately misspell simple words, telling her she cannot send them all to Chokey. However, Miss Trunchbull has built many more Chokeys. Matilda uses her powers to write on the blackboard and convinces Miss Trunchbull that it is the ghost of Miss Honey's father, demanding that she gives his daughter back her house or he will get her. Miss Trunchbull runs from the school screaming and the children celebrate their freedom ('Revolting Children').
At the library, Miss Honey and Mrs. Phelps relay the aftermath of the events. A few days after Miss Trunchbull ran away, Miss Honey's parents' will has been found; they left all their money and their house to her. Miss Trunchbull is never seen again and Miss Honey becomes the new headmistress of the school. Matilda cannot use her powers again and Miss Honey is sad that a child who has helped others this way is stuck in an unloving home. The Wormwoods arrive at the library in a panic, telling Matilda that she must leave with them because they are fleeing to Spain. The wealthy Russians Mr. Wormwood was dealing with are the Russian Mafia, who are unhappy about being sold broken cars. Miss Honey asks if Matilda can stay with her, but the mafia arrive before a decision can be made. Sergei, the head of the Mafia, is impressed and moved by Matilda's intellect and respect, and he agrees not to harm the Wormwoods, providing he never has to deal with Mr. Wormwood again ('This Little Girl Reprise'). Mr. Wormwood agrees to let Matilda live with Miss Honey. ('When I Grow Up Reprise')
Content Advisories (subject to change as the production goes into rehearsal):
Language: 4 out of 5 stars
Strong language such as “hell” is used. Mr. Wormwood is confused that Matilda is born without male genitalia and loudly expresses his disdain by using slang words for genitala such as “thingy,” “whatjamacalit,” “Frank and beans,” and “doodah.” Mrs. Wormwood explains that her “undercarriage doesn’t feel quite normal” and that she has a “smarting front-bottom” after giving birth to Matilda.
Matilda and other kids experience insults and bullying language such as idiot, horrid little man, filthy little toad, stupid, nasty, stinking, slimy, suppurating spleen, spitball, stink worm, brat, wart, squib, shrimp, unhatched tadpole, thick headed twitbrain, fool, loony, horrible squeaky little goblin, nasty little creep, miserable collection of excuses for children, demon, villain, monster, maggots, worms, filthbog, snotnose, flabby, disgusting, revolting, vile repulsive malicious little sinner, and nit.
Themes and Situations: 4 out of 5 stars
Mrs. Wormwood gives birth to Matilda onstage behind a partition. Scenes of bullying. Trunchbull throws kids in the “chokey” for punishment. Mr. Wormwood consistently mis-genders Matilda by calling her “son,” “boy,” and “he.”
Violence & Scariness: 3 out of 5 stars
Nigel explains that when he becomes a soldier, he can shoot you in the face. Trunchbull swings a girl by her hair. Matilda tells a story of a girl who is beaten and thrown in a cellar. The treatment of Matilda by her parents and Trunchbull could be categorized as abuse or bullying. Trunchbull pulls Eric’s ear as a punishment. She pulls so hard that it stretches. The Russian mafia offer to hurt Matilda’s father as a gift to her. (She denies the offer.)
Sensory Advisories: 2 out of 5 stars
Matilda the Musical is a dark story including large musical numbers and dancing. The music will be loud.
Potentially Anxious Moments: 3 out of 5 stars
Matilda lists the negative things her parents have said about her which is starkly different than the positive things other kids are listing. Matilda tells a story of the acrobat & the escapologist who have a daughter and then die. Miss Honey discloses that her father committed suicide but that she thinks he was actually murdered.