Did Alisha Weir and Emma Thompson Really Sing In Matilda the Musical?

After gaining huge success at West End and Broadway for the stage play ‘Matilda The Musical,’ Matthew Warchus has brought a movie adaptation of the 1988 Roald Dahl novel to the big screens. ‘Matilda’ is a heartwarming tale of a feisty little girl who reads and gets lost in her own world. She views reading as an escape from her real world, where her parents don’t love her, and she has no real friends.

‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical’ charts Matilda Wormwood’s journey from birth to getting enrolled at Crunchem Hall under the tutelage of Miss Agatha Trunchbull. The tyrant headmistress hates kids and doesn’t shy away from expressing it. The movie explores their dynamic and how Matilda and her peers break free from the clutches of Trunchbull’s oppression. The family comedy movie is a musical through and through. The beats and rhythm add to the lively and fun aspect of the movie. Even in some grim scenes, the movie has viewers singing along to the catchy lyrics. Consequently, viewers must be curious to know more about the voices behind the numerous songs featured in ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.’ So, let’s dive deeper into the details.

Casting Choices Based on Singing Prowess

Taking on the roles of classic characters like Matilda and Trunchbull is no mean feat. Director Matthew Warchus roped in actors Alisha Weir and Emma Thompson to play their respective central roles. Warchus was very particular about casting actors who can act and sing well. Considering the genre of the movie is musical, the art of singing was important for the actors to portray the role better. Both Weir and Thompson have sung their own songs for the movie.

In fact, Alisha’s singing prowess attracted the makers of the film the instant they heard her sing. Warchus said, “The first thing was the singing voice. I saw this tape she made from home in Dublin. I heard her singing and I thought [she had] a really unusually impactful voice. She was singing a song from Mary Poppins, not particularly close to anything that she would be singing in Matilda. Alisha had a look about her. She looked kind of small. I know that sounds silly, but that’s really important for Matilda. She had a kind of maturity and ease about her as well.”

Emma Thompson has music experience as she has acted in a Broadway play and also enacted the role of Mrs. Potts in the live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ She has previously sung all her numbers and performed as well. Talking about his decision to cast Thompson as Trunchbull, Warchus said, “We needed somebody who was a great dramatic and comedic actress and could also sing. But we also needed someone who could convey that, at the core of all of Trunchbull’s exaggerations, is a crushingly low self-esteem.”

Emma Thompson has sung the songs ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ and ‘The Hammer.’ On the other hand, Alisha Weir is the singer behind the soundtracks ‘Miracle,’ ‘Naughty,’ ‘When I Grow Up’ and ‘Quiet.’ Alisha Weir’s mother praised her daughter’s talents to the Irish Examiner as she said, “She was always natural to it. She used to follow the girls around, singing. She used to go into the singing classes with the two girls, and she would know all the words of all the songs as if she was doing the class herself.”

Furthermore, the movie boasts numerous dance and song numbers. Hundreds of kids were cast to perform the songs and dance to the beat in the background. It was a long process for the filmmakers to train and rehearse with 250 kids when the world was shut down due to the pandemic. “Thousands of kids did auditions for speaking roles and for the singing and dancing ensemble. They rehearsed for an unprecedented amount of time. In fact, for a couple of months of rehearsal on a scratch version mockup of the set. I think it was something like 12 weeks of rehearsal. Then the rehearsals continued under the shooting,” Warchus said.

Additionally, Lexie Lorch, who is cast as a friend of Matilda in the movie shared an insight into how the actors recorded the musical numbers for the movie. “We had to record the soundtrack and music from glass booths in a giant room, far apart from one another. We would be in there singing for hours a day, but couldn’t really mingle with our co-stars.” This was primarily due to the spread of Coronavirus during the filming of the movie.

Alisha and Emma’s singing talents add to the authenticity of the movie. They breathe new life into each scene of the movie with their wondrous acting and their sweet voice. It was indeed beneficial for the filmmakers to cast such skilled actors who could fill the shoes in terms of both acting and singing.

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