PUBLISHER’S COLUMN: MATILDA AND MIXED FEELINGS
When “Matilda, Jr.!” takes the Pioneer Hall stage this Sunday evening, it will be a bittersweet affair — bitter in that it serves as a reminder of the Schmeckfest musical that never saw the light of day and sweet in that this endearing story is finally making its way to an audience in Freeman.
Since last week, 31 youngsters in grades 4-8 and two directors associated with the Freeman Area Children’s Choir have been preparing the junior version of the story made popular by British author Roald Dahl for Sunday’s performance. Curtain is 6:30 p.m.
I admit I had mixed feelings when I first heard that “Matlida, Jr.!” was going to be presented as the FACC production. That information came to me less than a year after “Matlida the Musical” was canceled as the Schmeckfest production for the third and final time, and my shotgun reaction was — “really?”
I didn’t know how to feel about it. While I wasn’t involved with the Schmeckfest iteration of “Matilda the Musical,” it was personal to me because of both my love for theater and my association with those who were. My dad was in the cast. I had friends in the cast. A close friend of mine whom I have shared the stage with going back to high school was the director, and I know how much anxiety he felt trying to lead a show through the challenges of a pandemic that ultimately nixed it.
And I felt exceedingly bad for Sonora Myers, who was less than two weeks away from taking the stage as the title character in what would have been her breakout role when the threat of Covid-19 shut everything down. (Only the grace and understanding Sonora has shown since makes me feel a little better about it.)
On the other hand, I am thrilled that the Freeman Area Children’s Choir is a thing again. I couldn’t have been happier when I heard last summer that Amber Bradley and Iwona Lewter were teaming up to bring it back after a three-year hiatus; that resulted in a concert last November and plans for a two-week musical theater camp this summer. And “Matilda, Jr.!” is the result.
I guess we can put this one in the category of “life is strange” and go about our business feeling however we want to feel. For me, those feeling will continue to be mixed. While there’s a part of me that will always mourn what never was, I can’t wait to photograph these young actors doing their thing at Friday’s dress rehearsal, and then sit back and delight in the story of Matilda on Sunday night.
Those associated with Schmeckfest’s “Matilda the Musical” may have never had a chance to share their creation with audiences, but the cast and crew of the FACC do, and that is gift to both them and us. I’m taking it as that, and I hope others will, too.
Break a leg, gang.
Jeremy Waltner: Husband to Stacey and Dad to Ella & Oliver, who is looking forward to all that is to come in our communities in the months ahead.