On November 8th, a magical story will unfold at Peoria Players Theatre when Matilda the Musical hits the stage for its regional premiere! Throughout 9 performances, spanning November 8th through November 17th, Roald Dahl’s colorful cast of characters will enchant and enthrall audiences as they enter the whimsical world of Matilda Wormwood. Matilda is a precocious young girl with a love for reading who must overcome the obstacles and bullies in her life, using some special powers and the help of a few good friends, all while empowering her beloved teacher, Miss Honey, to reclaim her life.
Matilda the Musical is based on the beloved 1988 children’s novel by Roald Dahl. It was adapted by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. After a twelve-week run staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, it received its West End premiere on November 24th, 2011 at the Cambridge Theatre and its Broadway premiere on April 11th, 2013 at the Shubert Theatre. Matilda has received widespread critical acclaim and box-office popularity, winning seven Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, holding the record for most Olivier awards won by a musical, tying only with Hamilton in 2018. The show has also won five Tony Awards, including Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.
Named Time Magazine’s #1 Show of the Year, Matilda continues to enthrall audiences all over the world. Peoria Players Theatre is thrilled to be bringing it to the Peoria area for the first time. Director Zack Binder says that “people will come for the story, but they will be forever enchanted by the beautiful music and captivating characters that come to life on stage.” In addition to being the director of Matilda, Zack is a Pk-12 Principal at Williamsfield Schools and Fine Arts Director. He spent fifteen years directing the drama and musical productions at Limestone High School, has directed at Eastlight Theatre, and has been directing for six years at Williamsfield Schools, most recently having directed a community theatre production of Footloose. In the summer, he runs a theatrical summer camp, Truthright Theatre. Binder is also an actor and performer. “I wanted to direct this show because it embodies so many of the themes I believe in; Matilda emphasizes the power of books, the importance of standing up to bullies, and the significance of owning your own story.” Binder says that “Matilda is a show for all ages, comprised of a large ensemble cast (50+ people) of all ages, ranging from 6 to 80 years old! Matilda is the perfect family show.”
Sosie Blue Binder, a sixth grader from Williamsfield Schools, plays the eponymous heroine, bringing a sweet vulnerability and healthy dose of spunkiness to the role. She says her favorite part of playing Matilda is “transforming into another character and becoming a part of this magical world.” She has enjoyed connecting with her castmates and bonding as a family. She says that “it has also been really fun standing up to The Trunchbull and using my powers.” Although Matilda is a victim, she never behaves as such. Instead, she uses the power of stories and her imagination to transform her world for the better. Ultimately, finds a way to stand up to the evil Headmistress, Agatha Trunchbull, played by Brady Ott.
While Brady is a newcomer to the Peoria Players stage, he is no stranger to working with the director. “This will be my sixth show with Mr. Binder. Some of my favorite roles with him have included the plant in Little Shop of Horrors and Snoopy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Playing an evil headmistress will be a new challenge for me, and I’m excited to rise to the occasion, playing a humorous villain.” The role of Trunchbull was originated by Bertie Carvel, who received critical acclaim for his ability to embody this comically horrendous woman. Brady hopes to capture that same magic. “I hope people want to both laugh at and boo me. If people find me despicable, but laugh while doing so, I will have done my job well.”
Other despicable characters in Matilda’s life include her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, played respectively by Cameron Baker and Michelle Elam. Baker and Elam have a wonderful chemistry on stage and have the potential to steal the show with their crazy antics and despicable treatment of Matilda. Both performers have riotous musical numbers that add to the richness of this show. “I think people will be surprised that, in addition to being a wonderful family show, there is a lot of adult humor,” says Binder. “The Wormwoods add so much to our show.” They are perfect foes for our young heroine.
Thankfully, Matilda has a few friends to help her combat these foes along the way, led by the friendly librarian Mrs. Phelps, played by Mary Irby-Moore, and the lovely Miss Honey, portrayed by Kaselyn Gibbs. Both actresses have enchanting voices and personalities. As Mrs. Phelps, Irby-Moore empowers Matilda to tell stories. With Miss Honey, Matilda finds a kindred spirit, someone with whom she can finally connect. These powerhouse actresses help Matilda to find her voice.
Rounding out Matilda’s friends are a group that the director calls “The Magical 9.” These are the students in Miss Honey’s class who share in Matilda’s misadventures with The Trunchbull. They also add heart to the show with their captivating personalities. Included in the Magical 9 are: Sophia Barzallo, Owen Cook, Jonathan Enderle, Santiago Iadipaolo, Jillian Jones, Anna Maue, Sarah Sheckler, and Tristan Schonert. “They truly are a magical bunch, and I’ve loved working with them, inspiring them to be their very best says Binder. And I’ve got a wonderful help. I’m grateful for our talented choreographer, Sydney Abdnour, and musical director, Trevon Cooper. The entire cast and crew is magical; everyone fills their roles so perfectly. I hope the audience will be dazzled.”
Magic and Matilda seem to be synonymous. Don’t miss out on your chance to be swept up in the story. Come out and see 60 local performers of all ages as they tell Performances are November 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30pm and November 10 and 17 at 2pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for patrons 20 years old and younger. For reservations, call 688-4473 or visit peoriaplayers.org.