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Lights of Broadway returns to Vernon stage with Matilda

Longstanding musical theatre troupe is back after a three-year absence to present the beloved Roald Dahl story-turned-Tony winning musical
Jenna Romailler as Miss Trunchbull looks down on Carys Watts as Matilda Wormwood in the musical peformed May 6 and 7 in Vernon. (Judy Mori photo)

With world events as they are, everyone could learn from the young character that author Roald Dahl put to the page in the late 1980s. We could also use some of her magic.

That wish will soon come true when Center Stage Performing Arts Academy’s Lights of Broadway brings Matilda the Musical to the stage for three performances Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7.

The performance of Matilda will be the first time the musical theatre troupe has been at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre since staging Mamma Mia in 2019.

“We are so happy that live theatre is back. It’s important to support local arts and artists after a three-year hiatus. We love the support from our community and there’s been a lot of effort put in by our cast and crew. It will be a great way to spend Mother’s Day weekend,” sayid Lights of Broadway founder Charity Van Gameren, who co-directs Matilda with Sarah Mori Jones.

The cast has also spent a good part of the past year rehearsing during restrictions.

“It’s been different since COVID. We spent the first half of the year in masks and then taking the masks off was a bit of a learning curve because we had to remember that now everyone can see our full facial expressions,” said May Stanley, who plays Miss Honey.

Jenna Romailler, who plays Trunchbull, is excited to perform maskless.

“I’ve definitely found it easier to do more of the difficult songs and the more difficult parts of acting without the mask especially just being able to emote more and to breathe while singing. Wearing a mask was hard for that.”

The last published work by Dahl before he died in 1990, Matilda is the story of an intelligent and imaginative young girl who happens to have special powers. She uses her gifts to deal with her neglectful parents, the Wormwoods, and the cruel headmistress at her school, Miss Tunchbull, while creating a special bond with her teacher Miss Honey.

Adapted into a 1996 film, starring Mara Wilson as Matilda, Dahl’s story was made into stage musical in 2010 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the book by Dennis Kelly and Australian composer Tim Minchin providing the music and lyrics. After making its debut at Stratford-Upon-Avon, the musical opened in London’s West End and then made its way to Broadway in 2013, where it won five Tony Awards.

“My favourite line from the musical is when Matilda says, ‘Nobody but me is going to change my story.’ This is the story about a young girl who has not been handed the best deal in life, but she refuses to cower to bullies or succumb to not being treated well by her parents. It is a brave thing for a young kid to overcome. We’ve all been given different decks of cards. How we take this journey is up to us,” said Van Gameren.

“It’s not just a children’s story, it is rated PG as it has some adult humour and a darker undertone. Trunchbull and the Wormwoods are ridiculously horrible. Trunchbull, especially, is the darkest character that I’ve ever put on the stage.”

For Romailler, playing the villain is the best role she could ask for.

“I find it’s really funny when you go on stage and you get booed and the audience hates you that much. That just means you’re doing a really good job. I take it as encouragement,” she laughs.

“There’s a lot of things about Miss Trunchbull that are very far from myself. I find it to be a bit difficult to get into that, as I don’t usually torture kids.”

Playing the part of Matilda has been a dream come true for Carys Watts, who is her last of year of Lights of Broadway along with Romailler.

“I feel like I relate to her in some aspects of who she is especially when I was younger. She wants to do what’s right and she’s not afraid to speak up. When I was younger I was a very vocal child. Being able to focus on her monologues has been a challenge but so fun to perform.”

With Miss Honey, Stanley plays a character that is quite different from what she is used to doing.

“I’m used to playing comedic characters. Miss Honey is very timid because of how Trunchbull has treated her, and so it’s been interesting not being that punchline in every scene. But I really enjoy doing something different and making her three dimensional rather than just some scared victim.”

All three leads agree that the music will have audiences singing along, especially to the catchy song and dance numbers, which have been choreographed by Cherise McInnis.

“While it sounds upbeat, When I Grow Up is a tearjerker for me to perform, especially since Jenna and I are leaving this year, so singing a song about growing up has a deeper meaning. I feel my mom will get really emotional during it,” says Watts, who is also looking forward to performing the solo, It’s Quiet.

“It’s one of the slower songs and is beautiful as you get to see inside Matilda’s mind.”

And as the show has quite a bit of magic, with Matilda’s ability to manipulate objects with her mind, audiences can expect some dazzling special effects courtesy of set designer Liza Judd.

“Liza really is a magician and is very resourceful,” says Van Gameren. “In one scene we have to make a piece of chalk write on a chalkboard by itself, and in another we have to make a cake disappear. It’ll be interesting to see what she comes up with.”

Matilda takes the stage May 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and May 7 for a matinée at 2 p.m. Call 250-549-SHOW (7469) or order online at

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

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