Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) students will see the curtain rise for the first time in just less than two years, while staging the annual school musical production, Matilda, from Dec. 2 to 4, at the Lester Centre.
The play is based on a book of the same name by beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, who also penned James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is a dark but comedic and very fun production, Alison O’Toole, CHSS drama teacher and director said, on Nov. 25.
Matilda is the story of an exceptionally bright young girl with special talents. She lives with her less than appreciative parents, who don’t treat her kindly. At school, she tries to survive her way through life with a tyrant and vindictive headmistress, Ms. Trunchbowl but finds solace and warmth in a student-teacher relationship with Miss Honey.
“It’s a wonderful mix of beautiful ballads and fun, energetic numbers,” O’Toole said.
Sticking to tradition of the Broadway rendition and play, Ms. Trunchbowl has been cast with a male donning the female character.
Realizing she needed an adult male in the role, O’Toole turned to a former student, Chris Thompson, who also works for School District 52.
“A lot of the kids already knew him. He has a really great positive energy. His personality is the opposite of Trunchbowl, but he does such great job playing this villainous character.”
She said a few more former alumni are helping out, with Miranda Baker doing choreography with the cast of 24. Daniel Sims, CHSS band teacher, is leading the 15 member orchestra.
Everyone is rehearsing six days a week, with Saturdays off. Lunchtimes and after school are booked for rehearsals.
The excitement is high for the 2021 production returning to live theatre in the Lester Centre, as during COVID-19changes had to be made to accommodate health requirements. It was decided not to do a musical and to stream it online.
This didn’t help the drama’s program’s bottom line as each musical costs between $3,000 to $5,000 U.S. with the cost of royalties and renting the materials. Most years the profits are around $2,000, but 2020 was a hard hit, the drama teacher said as they took a loss. Any money made goes back into the program toward drama festivals, travelling to provincials of financing for the next production.
“We don’t get a big budget. Like there’s no way I could do a musical without coming up with our own money, separate from what we get from the district,” she said.
“It’s very expensive. And then with costumes, props, wood, anything. So I was really trying just to reuse stuff that we had, and I don’t even think I bought a piece of wood this year. We just recycled and repurposed.”
The director said she tries to keep the cost of tickets low so everyone can access them. This year tickets are $11 for students and seniors, with a $16 fee for adults. They can be purchased at Cooks Jewellers, at the Lester Centre or online, where theatregoers may choose their seats in advance for any of the three showings on Dec. 2 and 3 at 7 p.m., and a matinee on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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