Following on the heels of last summer’s wildly successful Anne of Green Gables tour, the Rural Arts Project is at it again, preparing Quebec’s first ever production of Matilda the Musical.
“It’s all about getting theatre out of the building of Grove Hall and sharing it with the region,” says director Tina Bye, adding that the aim is to increase the project’s reach in the Valley.
“We reserved the rights to the musical as soon as they became available … it’s all about the power of literacy,” says Bye, who admits that this, along with the magical elements and spectacle in Matilda’s story, was a particular draw for her to the musical.
Based on the 1988 children’s novel of the same name by the wonderfully twisted Roald Dahl, the musical centres on Matilda, a precocious young girl with psychokinetic powers, played to perfection by a trio of young actors (Lyndsay MacKay, Hailey Cartier and Océane Laberge). Born to unloving parents (Avery Erskine, Katherine MacKay and Valerie Tsimondis-Gougeon), Matilda makes the most of her powerful imagination, a love of reading, and a special closeness with teacher Miss Honey (Dakota Adams and Ellie Moss) to dream of a better life.
The cast is rounded out by a talented ensemble of around 20-plus adults and kids, including alumni from the very first Rural Arts Project Summer Arts Camps. Musician and actor Jeremy Robidoux will be in charge of music, and Alex Vaudrin Demers, a recent graduate in dance education from UQAM, will lead the choreography. Both Jeremy and Alex are also playing exciting roles that are not in Dahl’s book or the 1996 film.
According to Bye, the cast is particularly strong in ensemble song and dance numbers, making it a perfect fit for performing Matilda the Musical, and adding to the bohemian feel. “There is something magical about the summer shows – it’s a bit like running away with the circus.”
“Just being in a performing arts production really shifts something inside a lot of these kids. They increase their belief in themselves when it is mirrored back to them by the applause of the audience and fellow performers,” says Bye, adding that several families are playing a strong role in terms of organization as well as on stage.
Meanwhile the team is partnering with municipal libraries for ticket sales, and will be receiving 60 donated chairs from Repercussion Theatre. The extra seating capacity will complement the risers built last year for the Anne of Green Gables tour.
“We know what to anticipate this year and we know how to plan it,” concludes Bye. Clearly Grove Hall’s impact is reaching far beyond the Huntingdon area and spreading across the Valley. If the Matilda production is any bit as magical as Anne of Green Gables, both the cast and audience are in for a real treat this summer.