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Courage and curiosity prevail in Street Lamp’s ‘Matilda’

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RISING SUN — Matilda Wormwood demonstrates that even if you’re little you can do a lot to change the course of your story in Street Lamp Community Theatre’s production of “Matilda.”

The musical, based on the 1988 novel by Roald Dahl and 1996 film by the same name, will run at Street Lamp’s black box theater at Valley View Drive in Rising Sun with shows Dec. 6-8 and 13-15. Shows are at 7 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. on Sundays, and both times on Saturdays.

The role of Matilda will be played by two actresses, Katelyn Joseph and Megan McDonald. Joseph will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 6, 2 p.m. Dec. 7, 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 2 p.m. Dec. 15. McDonald will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 7 p.m. Dec. 13 and 2 p.m. Dec. 14.

Co-director Matthew Peterson said that while the movie showcases Matilda’s magical abilities, the musical puts more of an emphasis on her wealth of knowledge that she has taught herself despite her condescending family.

“There’s a little bit of magic in the show because that’s who she is, but it’s lyrically heavy and dialogue heavy for her I think to show off this is the smartest kid you’ve ever seen,” Matthew said.

Books are used to decorate various aspects of the set, from steps to seats, to showcase Matilda’s love of reading.

Matthew said that by focusing on Matilda’s literary prowess and curiosity for knowledge, the musical shows young audience members that they, too, can be like Matilda.

“It focuses more on how unusual of a kid she is in a way that other kids can also be,” he said. “You don’t have to be a magic kid to be like Matilda; you can just read a lot and be smart.”

McDonald and Joseph said they enjoy playing Matilda because of how she wields her knowledge — and a bit of mischief — for her fight for fairness.

“She’s a super intelligent and tough character, so it’s fun to portray that … She’ll be very shy one hour and the next hour she’s an upbeat wildchild. She’s very crazy, very mysterious, and she likes revenge,” McDonald said.

From helping friends escape the wrath of Miss Trunchbull to sabotaging her father’s attempts to swindle customers after he repeatedly talks down to her, Matilda has more than one trick up her sleeve.

“My favorite part is she’s kind of tricky,” Joseph said. “She does some little tricks on people and I like that about her.”

Codey Odachowski, who plays Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress at Matilda’s school, said he was drawn to his character because of her intensity.

“I like being able to get my frustration out,” he said. “I get to yell the entire time for a whole two hours, which is wonderful.”

Odachowski has been performing as his drag persona Venus Fastrada for the past two years, so he was excited to take on another role in drag. But he said performing twice a week as Venus and playing Trunchbull in this show are still very different.

“It’s different because what I do for my drag career is much prettier and much more glittery and much more showy than what Trunchbull is … But as Trunchbull, I’m able to kind of let my guard down,” he said. “I don’t have to be pretty. I don’t have to make sure my makeup looks amazing. I can kind of be messy and not worry about how it looks and that adds to the character.”

Through playing Trunchbull, Odachowski said he has learned a lot about his character that might not be immediately obvious given her loud-and-in-charge personality.

“She’s very uncomfortable with who she is, very uncomfortable … I’ve just discovered through the lines that she does not know what she’s doing, she doesn’t know who she is, she doesn’t know who anybody else is, and she’s kind of jealous of everybody else is,” he said, adding that’s why Trunchbull takes out her anger on Miss Honey and the students.

Choreographer Stephanie Peterson, who is married to Matthew, said the show was challenging to choreograph because so many of the songs are very long. That said, she said she had fun with the dances.

“‘Loud’ was a lot of fun [to choreograph] because it’s like a salsa and I don’t dance salsa, so I was looking up a lot of tricks and stuff … But I think ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ was my favorite because I made the kids do burpies and tortured them and that was funny to watch.”

Musical director Charlie Hannigan said the songs in this show carry a lot of energy, which made it a good time for the cast members.

“The opening number and ‘Revolting Children’ were probably the most fun because … they were the most enthusiastic to learn those songs,” Hannigan said, adding that the cast kept wanting to perform “Revolting Children” over and over again.

Fittingly, McDonald said her favorite part of the show is performing “Revolting Children.”

“That’s when everyone revolts back and everyone just shows the bad side of them, not their normal person side,” she said. “They’re just crazy and they’re just done with everyone.”

Meanwhile, Joseph said she enjoys a song called “Telly.”

“It’s my dad in the show (Mr. Wormwood, played by Charlie Johnson),” she said. “He’s singing about how the telly, the TV, is very amazing for you and you should always be watching TV and never read books, so it’s funny.”

Peterson and co-director Laura Wood, who is also the executive director of Street Lamp, agreed that this show is the toughest children’s show that the theater has produced.

Wood added that it’s a highly entertaining show and she encouraged families to come see it together.

“It has a really cool message,” she said. “It’s just a fun show to go watch with your kids this holiday season.”

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