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James Clemens Theatre to present ‘Matilda the Musical’

MADISON – After a one-year delay, James Clemens Theatre students are excited to present their production of “Matilda the Musical” on March 4-6.

“When school shut down in 2020, we were three weeks away from opening ‘Matilda.’ I couldn’t imagine all the time, money and energy that we had spent on the show just going up in smoke,” theatre teacher and ‘Matilda’ director Amy Patel said.

Luckily, most cast members were juniors last year so reviving “Matilda” was possible. Last fall, Patel held ‘re-auditions’ to recast roles that graduates vacated. Gradually, Patel scheduled in-person rehearsals and stand-ins for quarantined students, who remain a major challenge even as showtime nears.

“The company that owns the rights to ‘Matilda’ will not give permission for a live-streamed or prerecorded performance, so our option was to perform it live or not at all,” Patel said. “Just like ‘Matilda,’ JCTheatre is determined to change our story.”

In “Matilda the Musical,” a girl dares to change her own destiny. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s book, “Matilda” won five Tony Awards and features high-energy dance numbers and catchy songs.

Patel likes the memorable characters: The intelligent, well-read Matilda living in a stifling environment. Matilda’s parents, the ridiculous and comically terrible Wormwoods. Teacher Miss Honey. Miss Trunchbull, hateful and hysterical headmistress. Matilda’s friends. Encouraging librarian Mrs. Phelps. Magical Acrobat and Escapologist.

Kate McKay as Matilda is “a smart actress, finding the character’s subtlety,” Patel said. Alex Pharo portrays Miss Trunchbull. “He’s phenomenal and didn’t need a call-back.”

Joe Dobbs (Mr. Wormwood) “is smarmy and tacky and lets it go onstage,” Patel said. Carly Parker as Miss Honey nails two solos. “Her voice is incredibly dynamic.”

Two seniors from Bob Jones High School Maddy Dobbs (Mrs. Wormwood) and J.D. Willis (Escapologist) are in the cast. Bob Jones theatre teacher Mary Davis and Patel agreed that Dobbs and Willis deserved this performance option. Bob Jones won’t present a musical this spring.

Student Directors are the problem-solving Molly Blair, Madelyn Simoneau and Faith Price. Student Choreographer Mary Einhorn also plays the Acrobat, “a powerhouse and beautiful dancer,” Patel said.

Harris Gessner is Musical Director, assisted by Newt Johnson who conducts the band.

The play uses two instances of mild language but is otherwise suitable for all ages.

“Overall, we’re excited to finally produce this show because it feels like we’ve been working on it for years. We’re ready to share it with the community,” technical theater teacher and Technical Director Clint Merritt said.

Showtimes will be March 4, 5 and 6 at 7 p.m., along with a 2 p.m. matinee on March 6.

Tickets cost $11 for students and $16.50 for adults and are available online at Facebook/James Clemens Theatre. For COVID-19 restrictions, only 200 tickets will be available for each show. For refunds to the 2020 show, email jamesclemenstheatre@gmail.com.

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