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Arts and Entertainment

"Matilda The Musical" Closes Springfield Little Theatre Season

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(Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)
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For the first time in—well, neither of us is sure how long it’s been, but almost certainly before the pandemic shutdown!—Lorianne Dunn, Education Director at Springfield Little Theatre, came to the KSMU studio to talk about the mainstage show closing SLT’s 2020-21 season, “Matilda The Musical”, opening tonight at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut, and running for the next three weekends.       

“The cast of Matilda is so overjoyed to be back on the Landers stage,” she said. “It is terrific. The cast has been working exceptionally hard. The commitment level that they have is just top notch and it is impressive. There are impressive moments, it looks beautiful and the choreography is extremely well executed. And, you know, they've been holding the promise of this show for over a year now.”  “Matilda” was to be part of the 2019-20 SLT season, but had to be postponed just a few weeks before opening night last spring due to the COVID-19 situation.  Dunn said it was a “leap of faith” for the company to go ahead and program it for the end of the present season—who knew for sure if things would be ready to open up by now? “Fortunately, yes, here we are. And they are ready to take that stage tonight and do their 3-week run.”

“Matilda” is actually the second SLT show this season based on book by Roald Dahl, following a production of “Willy Wonka Jr.”  “Matilda the Musical” is fashioned really intelligently. It's very complex, said Lorianne Dunn. “If you're not familiar with the story of ‘Matilda,’ it follows the story of a little girl who is exceptional. She is a genius and she has a wretched family--they're just awful and they treat her horribly.” Matilda’s teacher can see her potential and nurtures it. But then there’s “the villain in the story,” the academy’s headmistress Miss Trunchbull.” as played in LT’s production by Patrick Mulheron. Others in the cast include Emma Puerta, a recent MSU graduate, who, said Dunn, “does a beautiful job” as Miss Honey. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are portrayed by two Little Theatre staff members: Lighting Designer Jamie Bower, and Youth Programs Director Zoe Zelonky. “And they’re all just having a rowdy, fun time.”

Seating capacity at the Landers is nearly back to normal. “We could actually go to 500. Right now, ticket sales aren't in place to be a full house. So there are plenty of seats available. And of course,” added Dunn, “it'll be an interesting experiment to see what people's comfort level is coming back into the possibility of a fuller theater than we have had before.” As things stand, she said there will be room for patrons to socially distance. “And of course, masks are welcome--that's up to the individual’s choice.” Up to now, seating at the Landers has been limited to about 25 percent of a full house—“and sometimes not even that,” admitted Dunn. So the staff is highly encouraged by how well tickets are selling, “compared to where we’ve been this year. But they’re still not probably where they would be” in a “normal” season. Dunn hopes “word of mouth will stimulate those sales.” The lobby will be open, and concessions will be available.

Performances of “Matilda the Musical” at the Landers are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm; Sundays at 2:00pm, and two Saturday 2:00pm matinees on June 19 and 26. Tickets are available at the Landers Theatre box office, 869-1334, or at www.springfieldlittletheatre.org. Tickets range from $20 to $34; if you can’t—or would rather not—come to the show in person, online streaming will be available for each performance for $34.

As “Matilda” closes the current season, Lorianne Dunn talked about what’s to come 2021-22. “Patron (season) tickets are on sale now. We’re opening the (2021-22) season with ‘Kinky Boots the Musical.’ And then ‘Shrek Jr.’, ‘Cinderella--The Enchanted Edition,’ ‘The Full Monty,’ ‘Steel Magnolias,’ ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. And then we'll close with ‘SpongeBob Squarepants, The Musical.” (It’s) a season to make everyone feel incredible.”

One of Little Theatre’s success stories during the pandemic has been maintaining SLT’s education facility, the Judith Enyart Reynolds School of the Performing Arts, formerly McDaniel elementary school. Dunn said, “we’re in full swing with our summer workshops right now. We have a different entry-level ‘Summer Stages’ workshop happening just about every week throughout the summer. And we'll do our (Summer) Institutes in July. And we’re  doing the young-performer edition of ‘Grease’ and of ‘Disney's Descendants, The Musical.’ Yeah, it's been a great year. The kids have been able to really focus on their training, and we've just felt really grateful to have been able to continue to educate and provide a safe place for the kiddos during this very, very different kind of year.

The creation of ‘The Judy’, located at 237 S. Florence, has been a major addition to SLT’s education efforts, according to Lorianne Dunn. “In addition to the additional classroom space, it’s provided us two additional performance spaces. We have a 60-seat black box studio theater now, and an adjacent auditorium that will seat up to 170.” Little Theatre has just completed their first year of partnership with Springfield Public Schools. And our own programs are growing great guns.”