Most of us know and love the popular 90s film, Matilda, a story about a quiet, precocious, little girl who loved to read and learn, but was verbally abused at home and terrorized at school by a dictating headmistress. Well, the beloved film is finally coming to life on stage in Winston-Salem!
The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem is bringing us Matilda in live action with singing, dancing, some magic tricks, and high energy. Matilda: The Musicalcenters on the life of little Matilda, who grew up in a family that never understood or appreciated her at all. She longs to learn and seeks someone who will love and accept her—especially being so gifted. While emotionally and mentally burdened at home and school, she discovers her unique gift of telekinesis, which is fueled by her frustration at dealing with the difficult people in her life. When she realizes that her school’s tyrannical headmistress, “The Trunchbull,” is mistreating students and her favorite teacher, Ms. Honey, she uses her sharp intellect and telekinetic powers to rescue her teacher and all the schoolchildren from the hands of the evil headmistress.
A stellar story likeMatildasurely requires creative, passionate, and practical minds to run the process. I had the blessing of gaining information from three people who made this production happen: Kristina Ebbink, Marketing Director and volunteer of the Little Theatre of Winston Salem; Lane Fields, Executive Director of the Little Theatre; and Katie Jo Icenhower, director and choreographer for Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical.
The leaders of LTWS felt inspired to produce Matilda: The Musicalafter seeing the premiere on Broadway and after it won 4 Tony Awards! “[The Broadway production] adds to the magic of [Matilda’s] rich history,” says Lane Fields. “The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem has had a long commitment to education and bringing families together, [and] Matilda represents the best of new Broadway musicals with a fun tale the whole family can enjoy.”
The biggest challenge with putting Matilda: The Musical together was casting. Katie Jo Icenhower explains, “The demands of this show require a certain level of skill in singing, dancing, and acting.” She is even requiring the actors to nail an accent, as the musical is set in a small English village. There are other things to consider during the casting process, such as stage presence, comedic timing, and energy. Other factors include height, how an actor may visually look with another actor and how good their singing voices sound together. So, it’s safe to say that casting for any show is a long, intricate process!
Matilda: The Musicalis possibly a huge compliment to Katie Jo Icenhower. Not only did she direct and choreograph the production, but this is her directing debutfor the Little Theatre and she could not be more excited! She has been very active in theater around the Triad, doing some directing and acting. Icenhower has wanted to be involved with the Little Theatre for a while. She auditioned for her first Little Theater production back in 2013 (for Spamalot ). Later on, she appeared in two other Little Theatre shows and even helped with doing props. Before directing Matilda, she directed for High Point Community Theatre and Kernersville Little Theatre. Icenhowerstates that being a freelance director left her with very little time to participate in plays. But it seems that all the stage work and performing she did in the past several years has prepared her for directing and choreographing Matilda: The Musical !
So, what is the message behind Matilda: The Musical ? “The message of Matildais simple,” says Lane Fields. “No matter how young or how small, you can always accomplish your dreams. In a day where bullying is more prominent than ever, this simple and uplifting message rings clear through delightful song and dance.” Katie Jo Icenhower also shares that the message of Matildais that “everyone should stand up for justice, no matter how small they are or what challenges they face.”
Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical will run for three weekends: September 20th-22nd, 26th-29th, and October 3rd-6th. Show times are 7:30pm on Thursdays through Saturdays and 2pm matiness on Saturdays and Sundays at the new Reynolds Place Theatre. The show runs for 2½ hours, including a 15-minute intermission, and is intended for ages 6+. For tickets and more information, visit www.LTofWS.orgor call the box office at (336) 725-4001 (12pm-4pm from Wednesday through Friday).