Scene from the Los Alamos Light Opera production of ‘Matilda, the Musical’, which kicked off Friday evening at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Zachary K. Baker
‘Matilda, the Musical’ is showing this weekend and next weekend at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Zachary K. Baker
BY ELISA ENRIQUEZ
Los Alamos Light Opera
Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved book, “Matilda, The Musical,” which opened Friday, at Duane Smith Auditorum, will transport you to the world of Matilda Wormwood, a gifted young girl who reminds us that we all have the power to change the world. Directed and choreographed by Wendy Caldwell Lanchier with music direction by Gretchen Amstutz, “Matilda the Musical” is a magical, fun, and heartwarming show for all ages.
Los Alamos Light Opera invites the community to see “Matilda, The Musical” at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Feb. 3, 4, 10, and 11 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, at Duane Smith Auditorium. Tickets are available at Matilda Tickets at Eventbrite, Village Arts at 216 DP Road, or at the door.
We asked professional singer, actor, and dancer Monica Poston (playing Miss Jennifer Honey in the show) to share thoughts about the show and a little bit about herself.
What do you love the most about the story of Matilda?
Monica: I love the message “Matilda” sends about standing up to bullies. It’s never okay to be bullied, and you should never let what a bully says define you. Even as an adult, it’s so easy to let someone’s words negatively affect you and stick with you for your entire life. It takes courage to stand up to negativity, and I hope that everyone in the audience will walk away feeling a little braver and more empowered to live their lives authentically.
How is your character, Miss Honey, similar or different from you?
Monica: I absolutely adore Miss Honey. I admire her growth as a person who has been pushed down and made to believe that she is “pathetic,” but finds her own voice and courage through a bond with a student. It’s inspiring because so often you think of the teacher who inspires the student, but sometimes a student can totally change a teacher’s life.
I relate to Miss Honey because of her love for caring for everyone, regardless of their age, personal character, status, etc. I also have been working as a substitute teacher for the Los Alamos Public Schools for the past year, so one could say that I’ve been doing a “character study” while working! I am very different from Miss Honey because I was raised by very wonderful and loving parents instead of … Miss Honey’s situation — you’ll have to see the show to find out what that is!
What have you been doing since graduating from Los Alamos High School?
Monica: I went to college at Elon University in North Carolina and graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre in 2017. During college I worked a few summers as an entertainer for Busch Gardens Tampa and Lake Compounce in Connecticut with RWS Entertainment.
Immediately after college, I got my agents and I moved to NYC to pursue my career in the performing arts! In NYC I was auditioning, writing music, taking classes, performing in cabarets, etc. I worked professionally on a national tour, “American Girl Live!,” which was a brand new original full-length musical in 2018-2019 that visited over 50 cities around the country. Then, right before Covid, I put up a show in NYC featuring my own original music (you can check it out on my website,www.monicaposton.com).
What brought you back to town?
Monica: Covid struck and I decided that I didn’t want to be in NYC during the pandemic, so I came home to my family. And, as it turned out, the pandemic changed the theater industry because all auditions became virtual, so I was able to audition for everything from my childhood bedroom! I also met my boyfriend here in Los Alamos, so that’s an unexpected (never thought I’d meet someone from my hometown) yet sweet reason I’ve been happy to be here for this time.
What are your plans after closing night?
Monica: NYC started going back to in-person auditions in the past six months or so. I was originally planning on moving back to NYC in the fall, but then I suddenly saw an audition posting that Los Alamos Light Opera was doing “Matilda,” which has quite literally been my all-time favorite musical since I saw it on the West End in 2011. I decided my move to NYC could wait so I could be a part of this show!
I will be moving back to New York City SIX days after closing night. I love Los Alamos, but I’m very excited to be back in the city. I am looking forward to staying in touch with all my friends, new and old, from this amazing production. Also, it’s worth mentioning that my fellow Los Alamos High School graduate of 2013, Gary Cooper, is in the new Broadway musical “Bad Cinderella,” so I’m excited to go see him in that!
We also heard from several other members of the cast as their characters, including Ms. Agatha Trunchbull (Suzy Kroesche), Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Scott Johnson and Holly Robinson), and Matilda Wormwood (Emmy Smith).
(Ms. Trunchbull) Tell us, what is it about children that makes you seethe inside?
Trunchbull: Some might want me to say that my childhood was horrible: left alone in a Harry Potter-esque way for days on end. Alas, this was not the case; I had a perfectly normal childhood. My room was filled with red velvet clown wallpaper, and I had an antique doll collection with real hair. Any child’s dream, really.
What about children makes me seethe? Aside from the fact that I am truly a one-dimensional character written as the villain like in so many children’s books, my feelings on children are as follows: I fear them. When one is an athlete, one deals with fear on a cognitive level, internally. The hammer cannot smell fear; children can. Children must therefore be beaten to the punch both literally and figuratively. I am a winner. I play by the rules and I win. Children don’t play by my rules, and I must win.
(Ms. Trunchbull) How do you feel about Matilda Wormwood? Is there anything you’d like to let her know?
Trunchbull: Matilda Wormwood is a prime example of a child who doesn’t play by my rules. She is a leader. She is bright, warm, friendly, intelligent, and used to being bullied by her family; thus my usual tactics are not working on her. I find her an enigma. I do not like puzzles. Puzzles are for the weak, because if you’re not already at the top of your game, you have much work to do to get there. Why would you start over at every turn as a puzzle would have you do? I would imagine Matilda Wormwood likes puzzles as much as she is one. I’m not at all certain I can beat this child .. although she is quite small, and I, quite large. Yes. That’s the solution.
Please tell her to watch her back. Mooohaaaaaa.
(Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood) What is the most difficult part about being a parent to a child like Matilda?
Mr. Wormwood: Who?
Mrs. Wormwood: For me the most difficult part was getting back into dancing shape after she was born. I mean I was out of commission for a good six weeks, and first the crying would interrupt my rehearsals and then it was the incessant stories she tried to tell me. She really messes with Rudolpho’s flow which messes with me.
(Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood) How do you measure success?
Mr. Wormwood: Success would have been having the briefcase of money instead of those nasty-faced apes taking it.
Mrs. Wormwood: One of these days Rudolpho and I will win the Biannual, International, Amateur Salsa and Ballroom Dancing Championship. That is when I will know I’ve really made it!
(Matilda) What is it that you wish most for all children?
Matilda: I hope all children are loved by their family and that they should persistently read books.
(Matilda) If you could give one piece of advice to all adults — or anyone — what would you tell them?
Matilda: Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.
Wendy Caldwell Lanchier shared some final thoughts about the Matilda, The Musical, with opening night around the corner.
Wendy: The story of Matilda is such a universal story. Everyone has felt unwanted or unappreciated at times. Everyone has felt underestimated. Everyone has had experience with an unpleasant person or a bully. It’s a story that needs to be told. Your age doesn’t define your worth or ability — that’s true no matter how old or young you are.
We have a real chance to inspire the next generation of performers: actors, dancers, singers, musicians. We’ve also got a real chance to leave a lasting impression on our audience. I think people will be talking about this show for years.
“Matilda, The Musical” will leave audiences of all ages mesmerized and empowered to be true to themselves, to have courage, and to do great things. Don’t miss it!
Emmy Smith plays Matilda Wormwood. Photo by Zachary K. Baker
Monica Poston as Ms Honey. Photo by Zachary K. Baker
Suzy Kroesche as Ms Agatha Trunchbull. Photo by Zachary K. Baker
Holly Robinson as Mrs. Wormwood. Photo by Zachary K. Baker
Scott Johnson as Mr. Wormwood. Photo by Zachary K. Baker