(Cover photo courtesy of Karen Goudey and Gilbert Players)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
HARDWICK, MA: “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” a two-act musical by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Presented by the Gilbert Players. The Center at Eagle Hill, Abby Theatre, 242 Old Petersham Road, Hardwick, MA. 01037 Phone 413-477-6746 or visit thecenterateaglehill.org. Admission: $16 per adult, $14 per senior, $12 per child. Performances Nov. 22, 29 & 30 at 7:00pm. Nov. 23, 24 & Dec.1 at 2:00pm.
Book by Dennis Kelly. Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. Directed by Linda Klem Tomasi. Music Direction by John Tomasi.
Matilda” Wormwood…Isabel Coviello
Mrs. Wormwood…Jeaneanne Pugliese
Mr. Wormwood…Kenn Robinson
Michael Wormwood…Loren Bennington
Miss Trunchbull…Julie Capone- Bouchard
Miss Honey…Cassie Blanchette
Mrs. Phelps…Cindy Doyle
(Clique) Lavender…Julia Frechette
Seem Nigel…Evan Halloway
Hortensia… Amanda Busziewicz
Escapologist.Doctor, Salsa Dancer…James Lameroux
Acrobat, Lead Salsa dancer…Darrian DuVarney
Lead Salsa Dancer Jason Desjardins…
Rudolpho… Jason Benoit
Nurse, substitute teacher, Salsa dancer… Shannon Green
Russian Mafia, Pastry Chef… Kurt Staven
Russian Mafia… Greg Davis
Hailey Stoll, Anna Metcalf, Sofia Voloshinov, Maeve Smith
Rowan Baglio, Jason Desjardins, Juliana Caputo Cody Douglas, Gabrielle Lacaire, Morgan Orszulak Hailey Stoll, Sofia Voloshinov, Bailee Rousseau
Peter Stanley, Korynn Gagne, Bailee Rousseau Shayla Deveneau, Loren Bennington
Gilbert Players at the Center at Eagle Hill present’s a staging of the story of a young girl with telekentic powers who rises above a tidal wave of obstacles put before her in “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.”
The show, based on the 1988 story by Roald Dahl, premiered to great accolades and multiple awards in 2011 in the U.K. and has since played on Broadway and all over the world. During its Broadway run in 2013 it won five Tony Awards, including "Best Book of a Musical."
Director Linda Tomasi said the folks at Gilbert chose the show because “people have been asking for it.”
“I am at the age where ‘Matilda’ was not on my story book list along with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Wizard of Oz’” Tomasi says. “When Dahl came onto the scene I was on my way to high school essays.I do know that he had a very hectic child’s life, was very precocious and smart. I can only guess that, perhaps instead of writing about his own shenanigans, he came up with the delightful character of Matilda.”
The folks of the Hardwick-based theatre, not being familiar with the stage production, ordered a musical CD of the Broadway version.
According to Tomasi, the musical is somewhat a departure from the more traditional ‘family friendly fare’ of Broadway shows the group has been known for doing the last few years. The primary concern was finding an actress for the role of young Matilda.
“I knew that our adult members could easily carry (the characters of) Mrs. Wormwood, Miss Honey, Trunchbull and others,” Tomasi states. “But Matilda? She is different. Can we find her?”
Matilda, according to Tomasi, is not like the Disney heroines such as ‘Belle’ or ‘Ariel’.
“She (Matilda) is an old soul…a figment of Dahl’s imagination, a young woman who really has Matilda living inside her,” Tomasi says. “We had so many girls audition for this part, and they were all good…really good.”
However, as Tomasi recalls, when young auditioner Isabel Coviello sang the Act Two number “Quiet” from the score, “you could hear a pin drop.”
“The photographer’s camera stopped clicking and, as I looked over to her, she was wiping a tear from her eye,” Tomasi says. “Although Isabel had her share of competition at the call backs, she captured the role becoming so much like the story character that it was uncanny.
As a director, Tomasi acknowledges how, sometimes, not knowing too much about a show actually can provide a director more freedom how to approach the material.
“Actors can explore and add their personality to the script and somehow the characters emerge much like intended,” Tomasi says. “We have always been fortunate that our troupe of actors both seasoned and new are very strong actors, singers, dancers and their commitment to a top quality production equals ours.”
According to Tomasi, a number of the cast have achieved bringing out the more sordid nature of some of Dahl’s dour characters from the grim world in which young Matilda exists.
“Jeaneanne Pugliese and Kenn Robinson as the Wormwoods are a directors dream,” Tomasi says. “Their dedication to the sleaziness and sour humor almost bring a weird likability to them.”
Another actor Tomasi admires is Julie Capone Bouchard as Miss Trunchbull who, as Tomasi describes, brings the character to life.
“She is so convincing on stage that, as a director, I have to appreciate her attention to detail and her sense of humor that make the audience love her,” Tomasi says.
The show, as Tomasi admits, is not one without its share of challenges.
“First, the audience must be being able to connect with Matilda’s imagination, leading to into a story about the simple life of an escapologist and his acrobatic wife saddened who they cannot conceive a child.”
Tomasi continues, advising how actors James Lameroux and Darrian DuVarney deliver a “dimly lit performance of dance and terror adding to the vivid imagination of Matilda while bringing visual understanding to the story.”
“James, a solid and cherished member of the Gilbert Players, welcomed Darrian as his dance partner and together Matilda’s mind comes to life,” Tomasi says.
The show also has its share of technical challenges, as Tomasi reveals.
“There are numerous stage challenges: the chalk board writing, a newt flying into Trunchbull’s britches, and setting up swings that will soar across the stage,” Tomasi says. “I believe that the heavier these obstacles weigh on a director’s mind, the greater the result.”
Cassie Blanchette plays “Miss Honey” and, in Tomasi’s opinion, has one of the hardest roles even though she is one of the simplest characters.
“As a school teacher who loves her class and has an unexplained connection towards Matilda, she ultimately needs to convince the audience that it would be ok to have a family torn apart by the end of the show,” Tomasi says. “The relationship between Miss Honey and Matilda is heartwarming, protective and sincere.”
Because these are all natural feelings that humans have, Tomasi advises it is important that the acting abilities of these two performers helps keep the story alive without becoming boring.
“These two are masters,” Tomasi says.
The character of Mrs. Phelps, who befriends Matilda at a library, is played by Cindy Doyle and, in Tomasi’s opinion, is another simple role done “perfectly.”
“Her enthusiasm and willingness to let Matilda explore their minds together is touching and exciting,” Tomasi says.
According to Tomasi, who works with husband John as music director, the cast of “Matilda” has been “exciting and rewarding.”
“John and I both feel that the audience will walk away singing the catchy show tunes and find that the time spent watching the production was well worth the two and a half months of preparation,” Tomasi says. “Although one would think that this show would not have a lots of laughs…surprise! It is completely enjoyable and fun filled for people and children of all ages.”
With the help of her friends and the compassionate Miss Honey, Matilda inspires a little revolution proving that everyone has the power to change their story.
The show premieres 7:00pm this Friday, Nov.22 at the Eagle Hill School in Hardwick.