Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Today's News - Tomorrow's Lesson - Resources for 5- to 11-Year-Olds - Stuck on Treacle: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Today's News - Tomorrow's Lesson - Resources for 5- to 11-Year-Olds - Stuck on Treacle: Resources

Article excerpt

Why some feared Matilda's British idiom would baffle Broadway.

After huge success in the West End of London, England, Matilda the Musical had a language makeover before arriving on Broadway in the US. Words such as "treacle" were excised because it was feared that American audiences would not recognise them.

The show is based fairly faithfully on the children's novel by Roald Dahl. But the writer of the lyrics, comedian Tim Minchin, was worried that theatregoers in New York City, already dealing with the show's British accents, would struggle with the colloquial British English.

The American ear often struggles to make sense of British English. So, to make Matilda's lyrical whimsies more palatable, Minchin tried to "thin out" some of its more oblique Britishness. The word "treacle", for example, was changed to "syrup".

"It's being changed a little because there are a few lyrics that they're just not hearing because (the words are) so dense and require thinning out," Minchin told UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph. The four girls cast as Matilda on Broadway are American but have been trained to do English accents.

British voices have proved problematic for US audiences in the past, with some films given subtitles. Last year, when Northern Irish pop singer Nadine Coyle appeared as a guest judge on television show America's Next Top Model, subtitles appeared on screen.

But Billy Elliot the Musical was a success on Broadway, despite concerns that American theatregoers would not understand its specific cultural references. …

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