TJ Theater Arts premieres Matilda the Musical


Molly Sprick

Seniors Sarina Saran, Aafreen Ali, and Jack Baisch and junior Gabriel Ascoli rehearse for their performance Wednesday Apr. 27. Saran plays Matilda as she confronts her family, the Wormwoods, played by Ali, Ascoli, and Baisch. “[Matilda]’s really smart … she is mistreated a lot but she likes to stand up for what is right,” Saran said.

Spencer Zheng, Staff Writer

Matilda the Musical, Theater Art’s Spring Musical, premiered on Friday April 29. The play is based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel of the same name, featuring the eponymous Matilda, a young girl whose intelligence is ignored by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. She goes to school, striking up a friendship with Miss Honey, her teacher, but also having to contend with the tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. 

This will be the last show that Andrew Reid, the director for Theater Arts, will direct.

“[It’s] bittersweet, you know. It’s obviously sad because it’s the last one, but sweet in the way that you get to go out with a show that I’ve always wanted to do…. So I hope people like it, we’ve poured a lot of time and effort into it,” Reid said.

Matilda the Musical specifically is a show that Reid has been aiming to do.

“Mr. Reid wanted to do this show for a while, then we had COVID. I think this was supposed to be our musical for last year, but we knew we wanted to do it on a grand scale and not half in-person and half virtual, so we waited to do it this year, and I think that makes it better than ever,” senior Sarina Saran, who plays the role of Matilda, said.

“Since the first time I heard the music, read the scripts, obviously I had seen the movie a long time ago, but I hadn’t been a big Roald Dahl reader at all, but once I saw the show I instantly fell in love with it, it’s such a fun show, the music is great, there’s ton of different styles, the dancing is awesome, the story is really sweet, it’s got a little bit of humor, it’s got some darkness to it, it kind of has everything you want,” Reid said.

The fact that the play is occurring at the around same time as AP exams has been a source of difficulty for the actors.

“A lot of my friends in theater decided not to do Matilda because we perform literally [at] the heart of AP season, the two weekends surround the first week of APs, which is really stressful since we have [calculus] finals right before the APs, and we have dress rehearsal week, which is [when] you stay after school until 9:30 every day, so it’s hard to study. We’ve had a couple people drop out of the production because they realized it was too much to be on their plate, but I think for the rest of us it’s gonna teach us time management and thinking ahead,” junior Cindy Yang, who plays the role of Hortensia, said.

“AP week for most of us is in between the shows, so next week we only actually have one rehearsal, because we’re doing most of the work this week. We all get home pretty late, so studying is not as much as it could be, but I think we all knew this was coming, so we prepared in advance,” Saran said.

Despite the challenges, the actors are proud of their work, particularly the choreography. 

“A lot of Matilda is actually music, so that means singing and dancing, of course, and me and my friend Micaela, we did half of the choreography in the show, so a lot of the big dance numbers were choreographed by us, and each number has different people incorporated in it and we also have different set pieces that we use, so it was a lot of fun to choreograph the big gate that people climb on, we used a gymnastics vault that the kids jump over. We started choreographing probably a month before the show, and so we were ready to teach everybody once the show started,” Saran said.

“We used to have only one choreographer, which was Mr. Reid’s girlfriend, but this year we have two student choreographers,” Yang said, referring to Saran and senior Micaela Wells. “They’re two seniors, one of them’s on cheer, one of them does gymnastics, they’re insane at dancing. They’re helping with choreography this year. The actors contribute to the dances by bringing their own interpretation based on the character, and that’s how the dance really comes to life.”

The instrumentals coming from the pit will also be a vital part of the performance.

“I haven’t really done a pit orchestra before, so it is kind of a new experience for me. One of the main things is being able to perform with the actors and figure out how to do things if things go wrong,” sophomore Helen Zhang, who serves as the cellist, said.

“I think [preparing] went relatively well, I do feel pretty confident that we can get everything done… Of course there’s still rough spots, but there’s always going to be rough spots in everything,” Zhang added.

Matilda the Musical will be performed on Saturday Apr. 30 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday May 1 at 2 p.m., Friday May 6 at 7 p.m., and Saturday May 7 at 2 p.m.and 7 p.m.