IT started as a typically dark Roald Dahl story, about an extraordinary little girl with a passion for books, belittled by her cruel parents and tyrannical headmistress.

When it was adapted for the stage, by writer Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, it was embraced by audiences and became a global hit. It has been seen by eight million people, having toured as far as Australia and New Zealand. The first non-English language production opened in Seoul, South Korea, in September, 2018.

Dahl’s beloved book was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and premiered in Stratford in 2010. Transferring to London, it swept the board at the 2012 Olivier Awards with a record-breaking seven gongs. The Broadway production opened in 2013 and won four Tony Awards.

Now Matilda the Musical is heading for Bradford's Alhambra Theatre - the only Yorkshire venue on its UK tour.

Dennis Kelly - a film, television and theatre writer whose work includes hit sitcom Pulling and conspiracy thriller Utopia - and

Australian composer and lyricist Tim Minchin have won praise for their "anarchically joyous, gleefully nasty and ingenious" adaptation of Dahl’s story. So where did they start, in bringing this much-loved children's book to the stage?

"We had to make it our own, while staying true to its spirit," says Dennis. "It's a fantastic story, Roald Dahl created this incredible colourful background, but there's a lot we couldn't use on stage. We had to use a different structure.

"We added some of our own stuff too. Miss Honey (sweet-natured schoolteacher who befriends Matilda) has her own back story, revealed at the end of the show. That was something we felt we could develop on stage.

"We used our own storytelling device - instead of being a consumer of stories, Matilda tells them."

Adds Dennis: "It was a huge learning curve for me. I'd written plays, but with a musical you have to leave holes for the songs. Tim and I had a few tussles - you get that in any musical because the text and music compete - but he's a laugh. We worked well together."

For Dennis, the show is about taking control. "It's about girls taking matters into their own hands, creating their own destiny. Matilda has a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, but she's constantly put down by her parents. She dreams of a better life and dares to stand up to oppressive forces," says Dennis.

"It's not a saccharine musical, it was important to keep Dahl's darkness. It felt like an amazing challenge to turn it into something so big. Some musicals (bad ones, generally) feel like songs glued together, asking you to feel something, but I think that has to be earned. I like West Side Story because it's irreverent and messy."

Matilda has spectacular numbers, making innovative use of the auditorium. In one jaw-dropping scene, scary headmistress Miss Trunchbull, a former shot put champion, picks up a child by her plaits and whirls her around in the air, throwing her like a javelin. How does this kind of stunt work on tour?

"A magical element is the cast coming out to the audience. Desks come out of the floor, floating like a ballet. We had to look at each theatre to see how we could use the space," says Dennis. "It's a hard show to look after because there are so many children, who are all chaperoned, but they're incredible performers. Our director, Matthew Warchus, said: 'To you adults this is a job, but to them it's a hobby. The kids love being on stage and the show works brilliantly because of them."

* Matilda the Musical is at the Alhambra from February 19 to March 23. Call (01274) 432000.