By Michelle Anne P. Soliman
“EVEN IF you’re little, you can do a lot, you mustn’t let a little thing like, ‘little’ stop you,” the three actors playing the role of Matilda sang prior to the press conference on Oct. 27 at the Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas Manila.
Written by Dennis Kelly with original music by Tim Minchin, the five-time Tony award-winning Matilda the Musical is based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s book. The production, which opens Nov. 10, will be staged in Meralco Theater.
Matilda tells the story of an unwanted child growing up with crude parents. She is sent to a school with an abusive headmistress, Agatha Trunchbull. When she learns about her telekinetic powers, Matilda uses it to help her classmates fight back against Trunchbull’s injustices.
Directed by Bobby Garcia, the cast includes Telesa Marie “Esang” De Torres, Uma Naomi Martin, and Felicity Kyle Napuli as Matilda; Jamie Wilson as Miss Trunchbull; Cris Villonco as Miss Honey; Joaquin Valdes as Mr. Wormwood; Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Mrs. Wormwood; and Emeline Celis-Guinid as Mrs. Phelps.
“I watched Matilda the Musical in the West End last year. Matilda was my dream role from the very beginning. And now, I’m very happy to be here as Matilda,” Ms. Martin said.
“I am happy that I was cast as one of the Matildas. It is also my dream role. I read the book. The 1996 movie adaptation is my favorite,” Ms. De Torres said in Filipino.
“When I first saw the auditions for Matilda, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to audition. Or else!’ And then I auditioned, and when they announced that we three got in, I was very happy because when I read the Matilda book, I completely fell in love with it,” Ms. Napuli said.
GETTING INTO CHARACTER
The young actors went through three auditions in order to win the lead role. Ms. Martin said that they had to sing a theater song (of their choice) for the first audition. For the second audition, they sang “Naughty” and read the script. During the final audition, they had to do choreography.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson shared that preparing to play Trunchbull was “crazy.” “Finding her voice was the biggest challenge,” he added, “the placing of the voice would be easy, but to maintain it is difficult.”
Mr. Valdes, who was given the role of Harry Wormwood at the time he auditioned for Kinky Boots, said it was refreshing to play someone so different from all the characters he’s played before. “He’s slimy, he’s old, he’s vile, he’s nasty,” Mr. Valdes said. “I went back into acting school just to discover my physicality. I did animal work. I did voice work, just to discover this guy. I did all sorts of acting techniques to wear this role and I still discover him everyday.”
Mr. Valdes also revealed that director Bobby Garcia wanted him to play the escapologist (Matilda’s envisioned fictional father). “It’s such a nice thing to see the same actor playing two different fathers.”
The veteran actors said that the musical is a showcase of young Filipino talent in theater as there are first-timers joining the production’s ensemble.
The message of Matilda, that of standing up to bullies and being empowered, is also timely.
“If there’s anything that you can take away from the story, it’s that even if you’re little or you’re big, there are a lot of forms of bullying. And you don’t have to take it. You can change your own story. You can change your own circumstances. Everybody should be given a chance to be themselves,” Mr. Wilson said.
Matilda the Musical runs at the Meralco Theater, Ortigas Center, Pasig City from Nov. 10 to Dec. 10, 2017. Tickets range from P1,500 to P4,000. Tickets and schedules are available at www.tickworld.com.ph. Call 891-9999. For more information, visit atlantistheatrical.com/faq.