WAKEFIELD, R.I. — The Prout School will show South County that “Even if you’re little, you can do a lot,” with its performance of “Matilda the Musical” this weekend.
Based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel “Matilda,” the musical tells the story of a 5-year-old girl with a genius intellect and telekinetic powers. Matilda challenges the bullies in her life, including her neglectful parents and tyrannical headmistress. Along the way she shows her teacher and classmates the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs.
“The thing I most enjoy about being in this show is being able to portray a character that many kids can relate to, and being able to convey the message that it is OK to stick up for what’s right,” said Brigid Fitzgerald, a junior at The Prout School who plays the titular character.
Matilda’s love of reading is also a major theme in the show. Her interest in books is what ignites her curiosity and sense of justice. To mimic this, The Prout School will invite several local elementary and middle schools to see the show as well as distribute the book “Matilda” for them to read in class.
“I hope that a lot of the children not only enjoy the show and maybe find a love of theater for themselves, but also take the message home with them.” Fitzgerald said. “I also hope the children have the urge to not only read ‘Matilda’ but to read more books.”
Director Vivian K. Humphrey said that one reason she chose “Matilda” for the fall production was because it is a newer musical, debuting on London’s West End in 2011 and Broadway in 2013. This not only appeals to students who are interested in more modern shows, but is also a change of pace for Humphrey.
“I’ve been directing for 40 years,” Humphrey said. “So for me it is always fun to do a show that I haven’t got to do before. Many shows I direct are like my fourth time doing them, so it is fun to explore.”
“Matilda” also has many female roles, which Humphrey said was important since many schools’ theater departments are dominated by girls. Another factor in Humphrey’s decision was the prominence of the ensemble throughout the show. Most actors in the show have at least a couple of featured lines and are integral to Matilda’s journey. The ensemble gets to dance, sing and even ride scooters throughout the show as they rebel against the cruel adults in their lives.
“The ensemble has so much to do in this play,” Humphrey said. “If you do, say, ‘The Sound of Music’ you’re either a nun or a Nazi with very little to do. In this, they always have something to do.”
The production is looking to be a success, but the cast and crew still faced a few challenges. Fitzgerald explained that portraying a character that was so much younger than her yet so wise was difficult at times, but found that through practice she was able to channel her character.
Katia Konopelko, a junior who plays the vile headmistress Mrs. Trunchbull, said that although she has a background in theater, “Matilda” will be the first Prout School production she has ever been a part of. Konopelko found it challenging at times to play such a cruel character, but also enjoyed getting to act out Mrs. Trunchbull’s wacky antics, such as forcing a student to eat an enormous chocolate cake in front of his classmates and throwing a child offstage by her pigtails (a doll is used as a stunt double for this seen, not an actual child).
“It’s a really fun role to play because I get to be so crazy,” Konopelko said.
The technical aspects of the show also have plenty of effort put into them. Stage manager Sadie Crocker, a senior at the Prout School, explained that some of the stage tricks involving Matilda’s telekinesis were a fun puzzle for the crew to solve, especially since the crew has been experimenting with new technology and techniques.
“It’s a very technically challenging show,” Crocker said. “We just introduced haze to make the colors of our lights pop more. And we just got a new sound system so we’ve been working with that. Matilda also has her magical skills so we have to make her move things with her mind too.”
Ultimately, the cast and crew agreed that the show appeals to children and adults alike due to its humor, music and sense of purpose.
“The writing itself is so fantastic,” said Sam Eaton, a senior who plays Matilda’s father Mr. Wormwood. “The music is incredible. And I think once people come and see the show, they will leave the show with a smile and be so much more joyous than when they came in.”
According to Humphrey, 40 students are in the play’s cast. Twenty-one tech crew members, 22 student designers and several student volunteer ushers are also involved in the production. Students have been rehearsing since early September.
Tickets can be purchased at theproutschool.org/Arts/UpcomingPerformances.aspx for $8 for students and senior citizens, and $15 for adults. Showtimes are Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m, Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m and Sunday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m.