Theater students talk fall musical choice “Matilda”

Ava Koerner

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“Matilda,” based on Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 novel and the 1996 award-winning film, is this year’s fall musical. Although “Matilda” is globally praised, Wilson theater students have mixed opinions.

The story follows young Matilda, a quiet girl in an uproariously loud family. Their brutish habits drive Matilda to feel isolated, seeking refuge in library books. At the age of five, Matilda enrolls in school, where she must face Ms. Trunchbull, the terrible, child-hating headmistress. She also meets the kind and often trampled-upon Ms. Honey, and together they find the courage to reclaim their lives. The powerful story is supplemented by energetic song and dance numbers, amusing characters, and a touch of magic.

“Matilda” is well-loved by the global theater community, but can it follow “Rent,” last year’s fall musical? Eliza Leibovich, a sophomore who is involved in Wilson theater, is hesitant. “‘Rent’ was an extremely emotional musical, and following it with a more uplifting and less serious musical might be underwhelming,” Leibovich said. 

Sophomore Annie McClean added that “‘Matilda’ is very childish. It would be very poorly received to follow ‘Rent,’ a musical that made a statement about Wilson’s drama department as being sophisticated, mature, and good.”

Another concern was brought up by sophomore Maria House, an avid fan of Wilson theater. “I’m not sure how high schoolers can play elementary-age kids,” House said,  “Will the youthful whimsy be lost if older actors play young children?”

“‘Matilda’ in a way is the darker and more mature version of last year’s spring musical, ‘[The 25th Annual Putnam County] Spelling Bee,’” junior Nikki Keating said. “Both are centered around children so I don’t think ‘Matilda’ is so far off from other plays and musicals.” 

Amidst criticism, some students take a more positive outlook.

“It’s definitely more lighthearted than the heavy messages and content of ‘Rent’, but that’s not a bad thing as it will expand the community’s exposure to different show-types and challenge us to sell the comedy of ‘Matilda,’” said senior Catherine Hammes, a member of Wilson’s pit orchestra.

As Hammes pointed out, “Wilson has really talented dancers. I think this show definitely leaves opportunities for that to shine and I hope that this project capitalizes on it.” 

Keating, who has been involved in theater since her freshman year, hopes that the cast of “Matilda” is as diverse as recent plays. ”I think that “Matilda” will be what we make of it. It’s a musical with a lot of creative freedom, and there’s a lot you can do with it. What’s important to me is the level of diversity that’s in the cast, and I hope the Wilson theater achieves that,” she said. 

This musical could be an opportunity for growth in the Wilson Theater department or a step in the wrong direction.