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Theater students find community through ‘Matilda’ musical

Ambitious production enters final weekend

Lowell — From lead roles to ensemble to stage crew, the high school theater department feels like a family to more than 60 students.

That’s how Beatriz Freires, a foreign exchange student from Brazil, describes her experience in the cast of Lowell High School’s current production of “Matilda the Musical.” 

“I don’t have this kind of experience where I came from, and they (the theater) received me so well,” Beatriz said.

If You Go
To see the cast and crew of “Matilda the Musical” in action, there are two more performances at 7 p.m. on March 10 and 11. Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased online.

Freshman Elyse Veldman landed the role of Lavender, Matilda’s best friend, and has found her community. 

“It’s really nice to be welcomed here and I love it,” she said. “The atmosphere is just great, and it’s so fun to be around people who have the same interests and passions. 

“It’s just such a great experience. We’re a family.”

‘I loved learning the songs, the dialogue, taking on the character. I just hope everyone watching sees how happy we all are performing this.’

— sophomore Aysha VandenBosch (Miss Honey)

For sophomore Antonio Casarez, who plays the children’s entertainer and is part of the ensemble, being a part of theater allows him to work hard at creating something with his friends and then showing it off to others.

“Like not only do I get to be with a good group and put on something fun, but I get to show it off to my friends. And that’s just really awesome,” he continued.

From left, Morgan Saylor (Matilda), Benjamin Vonderheide (Michael) and Katie Meyer (Mrs. Wormwood) practice a scene set inside the family’s home

More Than a Year in the Making  

This year, the group has dedicated its time and talents over the last several months to perfecting “Matilda the Musical.” The popular Broadway play and movie began at the high school on March 3 and concludes this Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11. 

“I loved learning the songs, the dialogue, taking on the character,” said sophomore Aysha VandenBosch, who plays Miss Honey. “I just hope everyone watching sees how happy we all are performing this.”

The production itself is impressive, showcasing a variety of skills and dedication of high schoolers. 

‘It’s just such a great experience. We’re a family.’

— freshman Elyse Veldman (Lavender) 

But the commitment to making “Matilda” a show to be proud of is astounding. Preliminary plans (and lots of hopes) for the musical started more than a year ago as directors Amanita Fahrni and Jules Crawford assessed their prospective talent pool to even pick what direction to go for the production. 

“We chose Matilda after looking at our strengths. This show met a lot of our returning cast’s talents,” Fahrni explained. “We looked at acting, singing, and dancing, and were pretty confident our returning students would fill out the cast well.”

For example, Fahrni and Crawford knew the role of Bruce would require a high, male voice range, and Matilda’s role is most compelling if the actress can convincingly tell stories. 

Freshman stage crew members Micah McDonald, right, and Eleanor Osmar, center, help junior Hayden Gough (Mr. Wormwood) adjust his hat and mic during a dress rehearsal

There’s Mean, Then There’s Evil 

When it came to finding Miss Agatha Trunchbull, they’d need to find an actor who could convincingly portray the villainous principal.

“When you look for Trunchbull, you need someone who can act it because it’s more than just being mean. It’s that evil, and you need to find someone that can do that,” Fahrni said. 

‘Not only do I get to be with a good group and put on something fun, but I get to show it off to my friends. And that’s just really awesome.’

 — sophomore Antonio Casarez (entertainer and ensemble)

Another unique character to cast is Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s mom, since the actress has a major dancing part to her role. The cast was lucky enough to have senior Katie Meyers audition for the part.

“Mrs. Wormwood was an amazing surprise,” Fahrni said. “Our actress did her own choreography (for auditions), and her voice has improved so much. She went from being (in the) ensemble to one of our main characters.”

For Katie, the role brings out aspects of her bubbly personality and lets her showcase her dancing talents.  

“But I’m not mean like her,” Katie quipped.

During auditions, both directors were surprised at the new talent they discovered as well as the growth of returning actors. 

“It never gets cast the way we thought (the year before) because then we have new talent we find during auditions,” Fahrni reflected. 

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Meghan Gracy
Meghan Gracy
Meghan Gracy graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in journalism, which she funded by working as a Young Fives teacher in Ann Arbor. After graduation, she worked for three years as a reporter at The Daily News in Greenville, Michigan. Her favorite part of the job was covering multiple school districts in Montcalm County. She said a hard farewell to the position in 2019 and transitioned to a career in marketing. She currently works full-time as a writer and marketing strategist at Calvin University in addition to contributing to School News Network.


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