Made up for Matilda

Thomas Jefferson Theater Arts’ “Matilda the Musical” features characters in handmade costumes and facial prosthetics


Photo by Kritika Kumar

Mr. Wormwood, one of the antagonists of Matilda played by junior Gabriel Ascoli, grins at the audience. During part of the musical, Matilda puts bleach in Mr. Wormwood’s hair product, which turns his hair green, a gag which is difficult to pull off mid-scene. “[The] set [crew] built a sink with a big basin for him to stick his head into. There was a green wig that was set in that sink. While he stuck his head in the sink, it’s like 10 seconds or 15 seconds, he puts the wig on,” Abraham said.

70 costume pieces. One cohesive musical. Thomas Jefferson Theater Arts’ “Matilda the Musical” staged its last production on Friday, May 13, with intricate costumes and makeup that allowed the characters to come to life. 

“Matilda the Musical” is Thomas Jefferson Theater Arts’ CAPPIES production of the year, meaning the musical was reviewed by CAPPIES critics from the National Capital Area chapter. The “Matilda” production needed to adhere to CAPPIES requirements for judging, including for costumes. 

“The reason we are making everything for the show is because it’s our CAPPIES show,” costume designer Jay Abraham said. “The only things that are eligible are things that you either make yourself, or you modify in some way.”

When modifying costumes, the designers focused on color choices to convey the themes of “Matilda”.

“For the little kids, the color scheme for the school uniforms is white and blue because those colors invoke this sense of childhood and innocence. But for the bigger kids, they’ve been worn down by school and they are more jaded and a little bit rebellious,” Abraham said. 

The actors’ makeup in “Matilda the Musical” was more complex than previous shows. 

“For shows in the past, it’s taken the cast maybe 20 minutes to get into costume and makeup. For Matilda, it’s about an hour. A lot of the more villainous characters have fake chins, fake eyelashes, fake fingernails,” senior Ryan Lien said. 

Facial prosthetics contribute to the intricacy of the characters’ looks–for the role of Mrs. Trunchbull, the main antagonist of “Matilda”, Ryan Lien wore prosthetics and lots of makeup. 

“We had him get a buzz cut for this role specifically, even though that’s not your typical, you know, principal kind of look,” senior Mahika Rawat said. “Ryan is getting prosthetics so he has boils on his face, and he has a witch nose.”

Mrs. Trunchbull is also an older character compared to the protagonist Matilda and her classmates. 

“A lot of the makeup that we are doing is specialty in that way where we’re aging someone. So we’ll give them bags under their eyes [or] wrinkles on their face or forehead,” Rawat said.

By aging the actors through makeup, “Matilda”’s themes are reflected in the characters’ looks.

“Mr. Reid, our director, said he wanted this show to be whimsical, but also a little spooky. A lot of the [child] characters are dressed real cutely, then the adults are the ones who get prosthetics or special makeup or gaudy costumes,” Lien said. “In general, the costumes and makeup [work] to show the big contrast between youth and adulthood, which is the central struggle of Matilda.”