Holly Reichert (Matilda) and Marissa Ryder (Miss Honey) star in Village Theatre’s production of “Matilda,” which opens Jan. 4 in Everett. The title role is shared by Holly Reichert and Nava Ruthfield in alternate performances. (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)

Holly Reichert (Matilda) and Marissa Ryder (Miss Honey) star in Village Theatre’s production of “Matilda,” which opens Jan. 4 in Everett. The title role is shared by Holly Reichert and Nava Ruthfield in alternate performances. (Mark Kitaoka/Village Theatre)

Girl power fuels Village Theatre’s ‘Matilda’

The hit musical based on Roald Dahl’s novel opens Friday at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

More than any other character, the girls wanted to play the title role in “Matilda.”

Holly Reichert and Nava Ruthfield, both 11, share the role of Matilda in Village Theatre’s “Matilda,” opening on Friday in Everett. It was a dream come true for Holly and Nava. Why Matilda? Because Matilda is an extraordinary girl.

The hit musical, inspired by Roald Dahl’s beloved 1988 children’s book of the same name, is the winner of five Tony Awards, seven Olivier Awards and was named Time magazine’s No. 1 show in 2013.

Like the novel, the musical is set in England. Matilda is a genius who is neglected and abused by her parents. A love of reading has armed Matilda with a sharp mind and a vivid imagination. In turn, she has a gift for storytelling, a knack for pulling pranks, and — spoiler alert — telekinesis. With the help of a kindly teacher, Matilda realizes that she has the power to change her destiny. (The night I saw the show, Holly was Matilda.)

Nava has seen the musical twice: Once on Broadway, and once at the Paramount. When she was given the choice to audition for roles in either “Matilda,” “Annie” or “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” it was no contest. She had to try out for Matilda.

“If I hadn’t gotten the part, I don’t think I would have been able to see it,” Nava said. “It would have just made me really sad.”

“Matilda is a very interesting character,” added Holly, whose family moved from Las Vegas so she could play Matilda. “She’s one of those characters you don’t see often played by a kid. She doesn’t smile a lot. She’s not all sing-songy and happy.

“When you see her, you think, ‘Oh she’s so cute!’ But when you get to know her, she’s actually quite mischievous. She’s not afraid to be naughty and she’s not afraid to stand up to people.”

“Matilda” was turned into a movie in 1996. I saw the film adaptation when I was 10. All I remember about it decades later is that the girl from “Mrs. Doubtfire” played Matilda, and that the title character has the power to move things with her mind.

I almost streamed it on Amazon Prime, but I stopped myself. I decided I would rather watch Village Theatre’s show without comparing it to the movie.

Thus, I saw “Matilda” as if for the first time. It was magical.

Take a page from the director’s book and do the same: “We were instructed not to watch the movie,” Nava said. “The movie is an Americanized version of the book. We didn’t want anyone copying that or changing their acting. We can read the book — but not watch the movie.”

Village’s set, sound, lighting, costumes, choreography and orchestra were all exceptional, but it was the story itself (and Matilda’s storytelling) that grabbed hold of me. It’s a story about girl power.

“The message of the show is, even if you’re little you can do a lot,” Holly said, quoting lyrics in the song “Naughty.” “A lot of kids don’t know that about themselves. They think they have to be grown up in order to do great things, and it’s not true. We really can do a lot of stuff in this world.”

Favorite scenes include when Matilda is telling the story of an escape artist and an acrobat, played by the amazing Matthew Posner and Ivanna Wei, who act out the tale as if they’re alive in Matilda’s imagination. In the story, the escape artist and acrobat are a husband-and-wife duo famous for their dangerous stunts. They find out they’re expecting a child — a baby girl. Despite risks to the pregnancy, they are forced to follow through and perform the biggest stunt of their careers.

Matilda tells this story while standing on a chair in the library, the librarian rapt with attention. It’s a very powerful series of scenes.

At 11 years old, both Holly and Nava already have impressive acting resumes. Holly comes from a family of Hollywood actors. Most noteably, she played Lilly in “Help Me Obi Wan” (2016) and Peyton in “Cosmic” (2018). Nava has been in a few Village Theatre’s Kidstage shows. She also played Gemma in Seattle Public Theater’s “The Flight Before Christmas” and Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird” for Edmonds Driftwood Players last year.

Both Nava and Holly want to make it to Broadway when they grow up. Holly’s dream is to play the title role in “Anastasia.” Nava — if she doesn’t find herself doing space research — hopes to be Dawn in “Waitress.”

Featured in the cast are Basil Harris as evil principal Miss Trunchbull, Marissa Ryder as Matilda’s teacher Miss Honey, Shaunyce Omar as librarian Mrs. Phelps, and Chris Ensweiler and Ann Cornelius as Matilda’s cruel and self-absorbed parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood.

Harris, crossing gender lines as the cartoonishly crabby (and equally cartoonishly buxom) Principal Trunchbull, steals every scene he’s in. Expect to guffaw when you see him. Miss Trunchbull hates children and loves disciplining them. She has a reputation for locking students in the Chokey, a child-sized cupboard in her office that is lined with nails.

One more thing: Ian McCabe, a friend of mine who grew up near Newcastle, England, joined me for the show. He was impressed by the British accents. He couldn’t tell whether the actors were actually British, or Americans putting on fake accents.

“I was surprised when I discovered that Matilda’s father wasn’t British,” Ian said. “He had the bad boy Cockney accent and swagger down perfectly.”

Wow, right? “Matilda” fooled a Brit.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com; @sarabruestle.

If you go

What: Village Theatre’s “Matilda”

When: Through Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m.Sundays

Where: Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett

Tickets: $39$79

More: 425-257-8600 or www.villagetheatre.org

Talk to us

More in Life

George Vasil, author of “The Lance,” in his home office in Arlington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington author explores an era of forgiveness and redemption

The plots of George Vasil’s novels unfold amid Byzantine Empire power struggles.

The 2021 Toyota GR Supra two-seat sports car is available in six-cylinder and four-cylinder versions. (Manufacturer photo)
Toyota makes significant changes to GR Supra for 2021

The six-cylinder model gets even more horsepower, and there’s a new turbo four-cylinder version.

It’s been nine years since “I Brake for Moms” debuted and much has changed. (Photo by Jennifer Bardsley)
Nine years later, the ‘I Brake for Moms’ journey continues

In her debut column in 2012, Jennifer Bardsley reflected on driving with little kids. Today, it’s the kids doing the driving.

Patience and kindness are essential ingredients for a happy home

Here are ways to cultivate and nurture greater patience for your partner during trying times.

Bacharach (below its ruined chapel) on the Rhine River.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bacharach: Legends and sagas on the Rhine

Rich in history, the German wine town has been charming travelers for centuries.

Owner and Airbnb disagree on refund for rental. Who’s right?

Carl Baeuerlen cancels his vacation rental in Lanai, Hawaii. But Airbnb says he can’t get his money back.

Irene Koster.
Here are eight amazing azaleas no garden should be without

These deciduous shrubs have few equal for color and fragrance. Curiously, many Northwest gardeners overlook them.

Carbon-free water power electrifies much of Snohomish County

With increased adoption of electric vehicles, and clean energy mandates, hydropower has never been more important.

This oak 19th-century "cave a liqueur" holds four decanters and 16 liqueur glasses. It is decorated with silvered mounts of hunting dogs. The 11-inch-high box sold at New Orleans Auction Galleries for $4,250. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Don’t confuse the vintage cave a liqueur with a tantalus

Both have decanter bottles, both have drinking glasses, both can have locks — but they’re not the same thing.

Most Read