Matilda the Musical Opens this Weekend in Lowell

Photo courtesy of Lowell High School Theater Program

It’s only days before the opening of Matilda the Musical, and director Amanita Fahrni is on stage at the Lowell Performing Arts Center encouraging her cast to give bigger reactions.

“The bigger or better the reacting, the better the acting,” she tells the nearly three dozen performers sitting in the auditorium.

And in this year’s high school musical, there will be reactions a-plenty as The Trunchbull stalks about, striking fear into the hearts of students and teachers alike. She’s the headmistress in this story, but she may have met her match in Matilda.

The Trunchbull – more properly known as Miss Agatha Trunchbull – is part of a colorful cast of characters to take the stage during the performance. She’s joined by the sweet Miss Honey, Matilda’s father Mr. Wormwood (who doesn’t need books when he has the telly) and, of course, the intelligent and imaginative Matilda herself.

Based on the popular book by Roald Dahl, Matilda the Musical is filled with songs and dancing that are sure to delight audiences of all ages. It has been performed on Broadway and in London, but you won’t have to go that far to see it. Instead, you can head to Lowell High School to catch one of five performances scheduled for March 3-11, 2023.

Matilda Will Make You Love Musicals

Photo courtesy of Lowell High School Theater Program

If you don’t normally love musicals, Fahrni says this is the one that will make you change your mind.

“It’s unique, and it’s extremely different from anything we’ve done,” she explains. “There is singing. There is dancing. There are lights.”

And if you’re not familiar with the book, that’s OK too. Fahrni hasn’t read it either. She says it was the musical’s score that really grabbed her attention, noting these are the types of songs you wake up humming.

Ben Vonderheide, a sophomore who plays Michael Wormwood, was a skeptic when it was announced Matilda would be the spring musical. “I was surprised at first,” he admits. The choice didn’t thrill him, but like Farhni, he was won over by the music and creativity in the production.

“It turned out to be really good,” he shares. Not only is Michael Wormwood now his favorite role out of the five he’s played at Lowell High School, but Matilda is one of the most creative productions he’s been in.

Rather than having a separate crew change sets, cast members must move furniture and props while staying in character. That creates an interesting dynamic to the production, but Ben says that fluidity has also been a challenge as an actor.

Not the Same as Netflix

Photo courtesy of Lowell High School Theater Program

Matilda the Musical was adapted by the streaming service Netflix, but it’s not entirely faithful to the original stage production. Ben’s character – Matilda’s brother – doesn’t even show up in the streaming service’s version, for instance.

“The Netflix version cuts out so much of what you see,” says Hayden Gough, a junior who plays Mr. Wormwood. For instance, he says the opening number is very different with the Netflix version showing “lots of babies.”

You won’t see any babies on the Lowell stage, but you will see a cast of students who have spent weeks preparing to deliver a top-tier performance.

Ben says his favorite part of the play comes right before intermission. It is just Michael and Mr. Wormwood on stage, standing in front of the curtain and singing a song about why you shouldn’t bother with books when you can just watch the television instead.

“It’s definitely the goofiest of the songs in the show,” Hayden says.

As for Hayden, the fluidity of the play means it’s hard to describe a specific scene as his favorite. However, if you listen for the line about going to Spain, he says that’s among his favorite parts of the performance.

How to See Matilda the Musical in Lowell

You’ll have five opportunities to see Matilda the Musical at the Lowell Performing Arts Center in Lowell High School. Showtimes are:

  • Friday, March 3: 7pm
  • Saturday, March 4: 7pm
  • Sunday, March 5: 2pm
  • Friday, March 10: 7pm
  • Saturday, March 11: 7pm

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased in advanced online. Seating is reserved, and spots are filling up fast, particularly for opening night and the Sunday matinee.

The show is rated for all ages, and runtime is about two hours and 15 minutes. There is an intermission between the first and second half.

“These students put on an amazing show,” Fahrni says. And if you’ll be out of town? She adds with a smile, “I’d be canceling my plans.”

For more information about Matilda the Musical, including the cast and crew list and playbill, visit ShowTix4U.

1 Comment

  1. By far, this is one of the best High School for performances that I’ve had the enjoyment of seeing. Matilda and the Wizard of Oz was done very professionally with choregraphed numbers, elaborate sets and costumes, areal scenes and the acting was done just as professionally as any play I’ve seen at the Civic Theater. If this is the profession some of these kids want to pursue; then I would say they have a great shot at succeeding. Thank you all for entertaining us and I look forward to the next one!!

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