WATERTOWN – “Matilda,” whose story has taken an incredible journey through book, stage and screen, will share her empowerment story starting tonight for four shows at the Dulles State Office Building.
The Watertown Lyric Theater presents “Matilda: The Musical” at 7:30 pm tonight and 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday. There is also a morning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“Matilda: The Musical” has won numerous Tony and Olivier awards and the 1996 film maintains a 90% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation website. The show and film were based on the 1988 novel by British author Roald Dahl, who also helped direct and screen unusual productions such as “James and the Giant Peach”, based on his book.
Dennis Kelly wrote the book “Matilda: The Musical” and his music and lyrics are by Tim Minchin.
Mr. Dahl, who died in 1990, also wrote the classic ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ which was made into a movie and ‘co-wrote the movie’ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ‘.
Music Theater International, the licensing agency for “Matilda: The Musical”, calls Mr. Dahl’s creations the result of “twisted genius.”
“Roald Dahl’s stories are interesting, dark and complex,” said Ticia Aumell, Lyric Theater musical director of production. “People like it. And you can’t lose when you have a cute girl in the lead role.
“Matilda” is the story of a 5 year old girl with a vivid imagination. Combined with the love of reading, this puts her in conflict with her family and the evil Miss Trunchball, the principal of the school where Mathilde is sent. But at school, Mathilde discovers that she has secret powers. With the teacher Miss Honey, Mathilde gives a feeling of justice to her world.
“A lot of kids have read the book,” director Daniel R. Davis said. “I think it will be a lot of fun for the whole family.”
The lead role is played by 11-year-old Lexi Zehr, a sixth grader at Brownville-Glen Park Elementary School.
Lexi, Mark and Tina Zehr’s daughter, Dexter, said she appreciated the show’s message.
“You can be yourself and not be afraid of who you are,” she said before a rehearsal last week.
Ms. Aumell worked with Lexi and several other children last fall when Lyric Theater directed “Annie”. Mrs. Aumell played Miss Hannigan.
“She was one of my ‘rotten orphans’ whom I picked last year,” Ms Aumell said. “She stood out last year so I’m not surprised that she came over this year and took the show off. She is adorable and very talented.
Joshua Baughn plays the evil director Miss Trunchball.
“It’s one of those roles that is most often gendered,” Baughn said, adding that his character is a former Olympic hammer thrower. “It adds that extra comedy of having a man portraying this beast of a woman.”
Mr Baughn said there are good reasons the stage show has won so many awards.
“The music is beautiful and there is so much depth to the show,” he said. “It’s not just about Mathilde and her story through this crazy school. It’s Matilda who tells the story of Miss Honey and Miss Honey’s understanding of her life and what she can become.
Caitrin McPherson, who plays Miss Honey, said her character embodies some of Matilda’s struggles. During her first term at school, Matilda and Miss Honey have a profound effect on each other’s lives as Miss Honey begins to not only recognize but also appreciate Matilda’s extraordinary personality.
“She’s been through a lot and tries to bring hope to the children she teaches,” Ms. McPherson said. “She tries to lift Mathilde as much as she can.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Lyric Theater veteran Tina Thompson, who plays Matilda’s mother.
“She’s full of herself and is addicted to ballroom dancing,” Ms. Thompson said. “Mathilde is more of an embarrassment, a nuisance. Unfortunately for my character, that’s how it goes for the whole show.
But Ms Thompson says that overall the show has a positive message.
“It’s good to be different and to have a hard time,” she said. “You can succeed and manage through them and become triumphant. “
Equally exhilarating is the music, said Davis. The tunes are a wide mix, from a Latin inspired tune to rock’n’roll like “Revolting Children”.
“There are also some really beautiful ballads that Matilda sings,” Mr. Davis said.
“The lyrics are very clever,” Ms. Aumell said. “They go well with the music. (Tim Minchin) definitely took ideas from other composers and incorporated those ideas into his music. It is interesting and complex.
Mr Davis said the show’s special effects were a challenge, especially in a scene involving the evil Miss Trunchbull and the character of Bruce stealing a piece of cake.
“So she makes him eat the whole cake,” Mr. Davis said. “We have to make all this cake go away – to make it look like he’s eating it.”
Another challenge was a scene on the blackboard, where it looks like the chalk is writing on its own.
The main cast of “Matilda: The Musical” presented by Watertown Lyric Theater:
Lexi Zehr as Matilda Wormwood, Joshua Baughn as Miss Trunchbull, Caitrin McPherson as Miss Honey, Jonathan P. Cole as Mr. Wormwood, Tina Thompson as Mrs., Wormwood, Eric Gayne as Michael Wormwood, Mary Summerlin as Mrs. Phelps, Adam Workman as Bruce , Kelsee Donato as Lavender, Cameron Young as escapologist / children’s entertainer, Ali Eldridge as Amanda, Aidan Cain as Nigel, Robert Kimball as Sergei and the Cook, Jude Madeline as Eric, Brian Elliott, Jack Marra and Drew Autote as goons , Adriana Arthur as Alice, Cecil Velez as Hortensia, Jonas Stone as Tommy, Hannah Gates as acrobat and Ben Smith as doctor and Rudolpho.