Grant Hoover, El Inde Arizona
At some point in their life, a lot of children will have to deal with mean, vindictive adults, something that continues as they get older.
Perhaps this is why the story told in “Matilda the Musical” feels so universal.
“I think Matilda can be an inspiration not just for kids, but for a lot of grown-ups as well,” said Dena DiGiacinto, director of outreach and education for Saguaro City Music Theatre, which is mounting the show Dec. 22-Jan. 7.
The year-old company, which hosted its first major professional show with “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” during last year’s holiday season, will perform “Matilda” 12 times at the Berger Performing Arts Center on the Arizona Schools of the Deaf and Blind campus, 1200 W. Speedway.
The show, based on the novel “Matilda” by Roald Dahl, tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, a 5-year-old girl with telekinetic abilities trying to find her place in a world of mostly cruel and difficult adults.
Miriam Howell, the 9-year-old Tucson native who stars in the titular role of Matilda, performed in her first musical when she was 2 years old, has previously been in “Frozen Jr.,” “Seussical the Musical,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Lion King Jr.”
“Matilda is one of my favorite shows ever,” Miriam said.. “I just love all the singing and dancing in it. It’s so high energy.”
To prepare for the role, Miriam said she is also working to perfect her British accent.
In addition to carrying a message everyone can relate to, Saguaro City’s production of “Matilda” is also a family affair.
Miriam, who grew up in a family that is deeply involved in musical theater, will star alongside her parents, mother Kate Scally Howell as Mrs. Phelps, the librarian at Matilda’s school; and father Luke S. Howell as the Doctor and Sergei, a Russian mafioso who is in business with Matilda’s father.
Ray Frieders, a member of Saguaro City’s Board of Trustees who has been instrumental in generating buzz for “Matilda,” is particularly excited to have his daughter, Ally Frieders, on the team.
“We are so proud and so ready to see her return to her first love, dance, and dance on stage with our company,” Frieders said.
Ally, who graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in theater production, is a member of the ensemble.
The role of Miss Trunchbull, the mean, child-hating headmistress of Matilda’s school, will be played by Tyler Wright, who has been nominated for local MAC and Carmen awards for his roles in “Gutenberg! The Musical!” and “Hot Mikado.”
Lydia Schmidt, a senior studying musical theater at the University of Arizona, will play Miss Honey, Matilda’s kindhearted and supportive teacher.
The show will be directed and choreographed by Mandy Modic, a Chicago-based performer and teacher whose students won the most outstanding performance award last year for their performance of “Matilda” at the Junior Theater Festival hosted by Music Theatre International.
If You Go:
What: “Matilda the Musical”
Presented By: Saguaro City Music Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays Dec. 22-Jan. 6, 1 p.m. Jan. 7.
Where: Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway, on the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind campus.
Tickets: $25 for children, $55 for adults, $50 for seniors and military, through saguarocity.org/tickets
El Inde is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.