'Matilda'

Telluride Middle/High School students will perform “Matilda the Musical” this weekend at the Michael D. Palm Theatre. (Courtesy photo)

The students of the Telluride Middle/High School Performing Arts Department take to the stage this weekend to tell the eclectic story of Matilda in “Matilda the Musical.” Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 children’s novel, Telluride’s young actors will perform the acclaimed stage version of the colorful tale Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Michael D. Palm Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children at the door.

Adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly with music by Tim Minchin, school theatre arts director Angela Watkins chose the musical for its vivid characters and its appeal to a wide swath of students.

“I wanted to do a play that would attract some younger actors,” said Watkins, a fan of Dahl’s storytelling flair and penchant for dramatic villains. “His recipe for the persecuted child to triumph over an unfair world is always juicy. His villains are fantastic and their words so cutting.”

“Matilda” follows the story of the precocious protagonist, a young girl of unusual intelligence, talent and even magical abilities. Played by Calista Hattler, Matilda grows up in a household of cruel self-absorbed parents (Max Gorriaz and Koko Waller) and her TV-dulled brother (Didi Earthtree), who often belittle her genius and deride her for their own failures. At school, Matilda must navigate the inventive sadism of the fearsome headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Chloie Plumber), a notorious child-hater. With a streak of her trademark mischief, Matilda doesn’t take life’s injustices lying down, employing her talents in telekinesis to exact punishment on the gormless villains. Fortunately, Matilda finds friendship and support in her teacher, the winsome Miss Honey (Sophia Watkins) and the school librarian, Miss Phelps (Linnea Taylor), to whom she spins an epic tale of the doomed love of an acrobat (Mar Boyd) and an escapologist (Gizelle Winter).

The plot thickens as Matilda’s parents engage in shady business dealings, the tragic past of Miss Honey comes to light, and Miss Trunchbull’s cruelty reaches new heights. Through it all, Matilda uses her own storytelling, wit and sense of justice in a triumph of imagination and an ode to indomitable girl power.

As the New York Times declared in its review of the Broadway musical, it’s an “insurrection against tyranny, television, illiteracy, unjust punishment and impoverished imaginations. Matilda is about words and language, books and stories, and their incalculable worth as weapons of defense, attack and survival. It’s about turning the alphabet into magic, and using it to rule the world.”

To add to the creative characters and suspenseful plot, Telluride’s young thespians will sing and dance their way through a score of foot-tapping showstoppers and expressive ballads. The process of putting together a musical has demanded a lot of time and energy from the cast and crew, but according to senior Max Gorriaz who plays Matilda’s father Mr. Wormwood, it has been very rewarding.

“Everyone is really supportive, even if you’re doing awful that day. The best part about acting is getting on stage, you have butterflies in your stomach, and you feel like you’re going to blow everything, and then you get up there and it all goes away and you’re just in it. It takes you out of real life and you’re someone else, just for those few minutes,” Gorriaz said.

Danny DeVito played Mr. Wormwood in the 1996 film version of “Matilda,” a bonus for Gorriaz.

“Dude, I’m Danny Devito!” he exclaimed. “I’m one of the characters who is never serious. I’m always trying to sell fake cars to the Russians or something!”

The cast also includes Fintan Cole, John Pumayalli, Gary Bush, Kiara Warren, and a chorus of kids; Scarlett Baize, Carlynn Stewart,

Nannette Ogilvie, Emma Dominiguez, Mia Hattler, Nico Cubero Garcia, Matilda Parsons, Obi Clarke and Harper Lapp.