The Making of Matilda the Musical


Actors huddle around a desk while rehearsing a dance piece. (Source: Alex Strand (I))

After Qrumpet’s astounding success this past April at the Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild’s High School Drama Festival, Boston Latin Theatre has begun its next production: this year’s Spring Musical, Dennis Kelley’s Matilda.

Debuting in the West Midlands of England in 2010, the musical combines themes of magic and rebellion to tell the tale of a young, intelligent girl who discovers a love of reading despite her abusive parents and the school headmistress. After gaining much success, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced Matilda’s arrival on Broadway in 2013. BLS Theatre’s production is directed by co-directors Ash Albert (I) and KC Kirby (I) and supervised by BLS theatre teacher Mr. Joseph Gels.

Although it is still relatively early in the process, cast and crew members are well into their two-month-long preparation for the musical, which will open on June 1. With all of the different processes that make up production, the Argo asked both onstage and offstage members of the play to describe some aspects while the show is still in production.

Head of Costumes Isa Gonzalez (II) gives an overview of her hectic job to come: “The biggest thing will be keeping everything backstage orderly when so many people are constantly changing.” She continues, “I have a system where we label every hanger with the name of the actor and what character they play. That helps prevent everything from getting lost or confused with another person’s.”

The sheer size of the cast, with multiple leads, supporting characters and an ensemble, adds depth to all aspects of the show, including costume design. “Matilda’s family and Ms. Honey are going to need a new outfit nearly every scene they’re in, which will be a bit of a challenge to put together,” Gonzalez says. She is especially excited to design costumes for the character Ms. Wormwood, whom she describes as a “fashionable diva.”

Onstage members undergo a different kind of strenuous work. Mia Hosokawa (V), cast as a Henchman and ensemble member, shares their experience as a first-time musical performer: “All we’ve done [so far] is learn the ensemble parts of the songs — but it was a bit tough learning the harmonies because I had to learn to forget the melodies that I had originally learned before being [cast].”

Actors will soon begin running scenes according to their production calendar in preparation for a fantastic opening night.

Matilda presents challenges that are unique compared to other productions this year. “The thing that’s really different about [it] is that there are so many people,” says stage manager Alexa Schmitt (III). “You have the whole ensemble coming out of Guild where [Qrumpet] was a really small cast; we’re [going to] have to keep that level of organization, that level of togetherness, in a bigger sense.”

Despite this, morale remains high among cast and crew members who work tirelessly to perfect the details of the show. BLS Theatre, unlike many other high school programs, is almost entirely student-run. “There’s only really one adult in charge of the acting, Joseph Gels, and then Mr. Snyder who does the music, and then student[s] do choreography, blocking [and everything else],” Schmitt remarks. The variety of student work and leadership speaks to the department’s talent and dedication.

Even though the production is weeks away from debuting, keep an eye out for details of where and when to catch BLS Theatre’s latest and greatest this upcoming June!