Heather Mitchell and Karen Allen knew “Matilda” would be perfect for Theater at Latitude 58’s teen and tween actors.
But there was a sizable obstacle: The musical wasn’t yet available for amateur productions.
Mitchell, a board member and producer for Theater at Latitude 58, and Allen, the show’s director, wrote the rights holder a letter asking to pilot a production of the show, and to her surprise, permission was granted to put on a production of “Matilda.”
“We were really lucky to have an opportunity to stage this,” Mitchell said. “The fact the rights holder is letting us do this is kind of a big deal.”
In the letter, they stated Juneau is geographically far removed from many of the professional productions, highlighted the city’s vibrant arts community and emphasized how well-suited the show is to actors that may be too old for child roles and too young for adult roles.
“Not only is this such a great show for a large group of kids in the tween and teen ages, it’s an opportunity for them to do some real challenging on stage work,” Mitchell said.
The approval comes at a good time.
October marks the 30th anniversary of the book, “Matilda,” which was Roald Dahl’s final novel.
“He’s not around to see the musical, but I think he would have appreciated what they did with it,” Mitchell said.
The book was also adapted to a popular kids movie in 1996, but Mitchell said the musical more closely matches the essence of the novel.
“I’ve seen the film and read parts of the book and gone and seen the musical,” Mitchell said. “The stage musical, I think, in some respects is a little more true to the style of Roald Dahl. Don’t ask me to define it. It’s a little more British. A little drier.”
Plus, it’s a good time for performers and the audience, Allen and Mitchell said.
Silly jokes, thick British accents and kinetic musical numbers were packed into a recent rehearsal.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Allen said.
Good things come in threes
“Matilda” offers plum roles for young actors, but performers of all ages will be involved in Theater at Latitude 58’s production.
“We’ve got a cast of over 40 people,” Mitchell said. “They range in age. We have 8 year olds. Our oldest cast member is, well, once we get to a certain number, we stop counting. Let’s say close to retirement age.”
The nature of the show also created multiple lead opportunities.
“The role of Matilda is a lot to take on for girls of this age,” Mitchell said. “We don’t just have one Matilda. We have three of them.” Rachel Wood, Kyra Wood and Reagan Mitchell will take turns portraying the protagonist.
Allen said when the girls cast as Matilda isn’t playing the title role, they will fill in other spots in the cast, too.
“Matilda” opens Friday, Nov. 16 and through Sunday, Nov. 18. There will be 7 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets go on sale in mid-October. They will cost $20 for adults and $10 for children and be available online and through the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council.
Know & Go
What: Theater at Latitude 58’s production of “Matilda”
Where: Thunder Mountain High School auditorium
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 and Sunday, Nov. 18.