Dartmouth High Theater Co. to present ‘Matilda’ this weekend

Nov 30, 2022

The Dartmouth High Theater Company will return to the stage this weekend with a production of Matilda the Musical.

The show, which was adapted to a musical in 2010 from a Roald Dahl book by the same name, was recently made available for high school productions, leading Dartmouth to seize the opportunity.

In fact, Co-Director Denis Lawrence said the theater company decided to replace their usual holiday play with the musical to make sure Dartmouth would be the first school on the South Coast to put it on.

“You want to be the first school to do it, so that’s why we jumped to do it,” he said. “As soon as we heard the full version was available, we applied. The timing was just right.”

But securing the rights to the show was only the first step.

The real challenge was putting it on in the winter, with significantly less time to prepare than the company typically has for its spring musicals.

“It’s a lot of work to be able to do a musical in this amount of time,” said junior Hadley Fitton, who plays Matilda’s mother, Mrs. Wormwood, in the show. “But I like doing it.”

And if that weren’t enough, Lawrence said the theater company is also trying something new with this performance — using students to coordinate the choreography.

Lawrence said he reached out to students Emma Fitton and Nadia Franco over the summer and asked if they would be interested in taking on the responsibilities and they “jumped at the opportunity.”

He added that the pair watched several versions of the show to draw inspiration from, “and then they pulled together what they thought was best.”

Another wrinkle in the production process has been the inclusion of younger actors, drawn from the middle and elementary schools, who will play the children in the show, while high schoolers take the adult roles.

But even the younger actors have risen to the occasion, despite some of them having never acted in a full-length musical before.

“These little ones are absolutely amazing,” Lawrence said.

One such actor, eighth-grader Annie Witzig, who will play Matilda in the show, said she hasn’t been in a Dartmouth High Theater Company production since about fourth grade, when she appeared in one of the holiday plays.

Witzig said that while she is nervous about the show, she has been enjoying the rehearsal process.

She said her favorite parts have been “hanging out with the other cast members, learning all the songs, and getting to know everyone.”

Lawrence said that this show is also special because it is the first one since 2019 without any sort of restrictions due to Covid.

“Shrek was good because we were able to be in front of a live audience, but this is full throttle,” he said.

Fitton, who has participated in all the Dartmouth High productions since her freshman year, agreed.

“It’s so much easier to sing without a mask on your face,” she said.

Matilda is the story of a precocious little girl with a love for reading and a gift for telekinesis. Matilda’s parents, though, are superficial and disrespectful of her talents.

When Matilda starts school, her problems get worse as she comes up against the sadistic principal Mrs. Trunchbull who physically and verbally abuses Matilda and her classmates. As the story unfolds, Matilda must lead her fellow students to stand up for themselves and overthrow their oppressive environment.

“It’s relatable, which is great,” said junior Tyler Breault, who plays Mrs. Trunchbull. “It’s a comedy and musical and there’s a little mystery too.”

The actor, who is used to being the butt of the joke after playing Lord Farquaad in last spring’s production of Shrek the Musical, said that Trunchbull has been a fun challenge.

“Trunchbull gives a lot of Farquaad vibes, but Trunchbull is the dominant force,” he said. “She’s large and in charge.”

The musical will premiere on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Dartmouth High auditorium and continue through the weekend with performances on Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Tickets are available for presale at dhstheatreco.booktix.com or by calling the box office at (508) 262-0328. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.