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Jorja Reed and Cora Craver both play Matilda, Tommy in Lakewood Theatre Company's production of 'Matilda, The Musical'

COURTESY PHOTO: TOM RUST  - Jorja Reed as Matilda in Lakewood Theatre Companys Matilda, The Musical with Brooke Moltrum as Miss Honey,running through Aug. 18 at Lakewood Center for the Arts.

Before taking a dinner break during rehearsal one week before "Matilda, The Musical" opened at Lakewood Theatre Company, director Paul Angelo reminded the cast that there is a sacredness to the stage and even when they are not onstage, they should be focused on what is happening onstage.

No playing Candy Crush on your phone or talking with other cast members about non-play related things. He said he knew it may not make him popular, but it was important.

"It is a privilege to do this, and you are fortunate to be here," Angelo said, reminding the cast of all those who had auditioned for the roles they now portray. "Keep your head in the game and get to the next level, where even you are surprised at how well you do. Don't be satisfied."

It is the director's job to keep actors motivated and focused on delivering the best performance possible. Seasoned actors can take those words in stride, but how about newer actors, like Cora Craver and Jorja Reed, the 10- and 11-year-olds respectively, who are cast in the starring role as Matilda in Lakewood's production.

Rather than being intimated by Angelo's warning, it served to strengthen their dedication to do their best in portraying Matilda. Despite their young age, both are veterans of the stage, and feel well supported by the cast and crew at Lakewood.

Jorja Reed, a student at Alder Creek Middle School in Milwaukie, has taken acting classes with Oregon Children's Theater since she was 9; this is her first professional performance. She enjoys working with the "amazing actors," and says the hardest part is remembering to modify her performance according to the notes Angelo gives her during rehearsals.

"I'm working on timing, too," she said. She says acting comes naturally to her; she and her singer-songwriter sister often perform for family. "I immerse myself in the character," she said.

She didn't think her audition for Matilda went well, but felt she might get a spot in the children's ensemble.

"I was blown away when I got the part of Matilda!" she said.

Cora Craver also plays Matilda in the Lakewood Theatre Company production of Matilda, The Musical. She poses here with Brooke Moltrum, who plays Miss Honey.

Cora Craver is a student at North Clackamas Christian School, and lives in West Linn. She has enjoyed learning the songs and meeting new friends in the cast and crew.

"We are expected to perform at a higher new level (than what I have been called to do before). It is hard, but it is a ton of fun!" she said.

Cora's family moved from Texas two years ago, where she played the role of Spot in "101 Dalmatians."

Both girls played the role of Molly in the musical "Annie" with other theater companies.

LTC Producer Steve Knox said they decided to double cast the role of Matilda to make it easier for both girls.

"It's a big role, and you never know what can happen," he said. The character Matilda appears onstage a majority of the time, so Cora and Jorja alternate performances as the star. When they are not Matilda, they are Tommy, one of the school children in the ensemble. Both are demanding

roles.

"Tommy may not have the speaking parts that Matilda has, but there is tons of dancing!" Jorja said.

During one rehearsal Cora found herself onstage without her script, and missed a few lines.

"Afterward Brooke (who plays Miss Honey), came over and

said 'You can do it.' Everyone is

so nice. Even the mean par-

ent characters are nice — the villains are always the nicest!" she said.

Knox says the cast includes 14 actors under the age of 18, necessary to tell the story.

Matilda, played on alternating weekends by Cora Craver and Jorja Reed, is a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers. She's unloved by her cruel parents, the scheming Harry Wormwood (Danielle Valentine) and his ditzy wife Zinnia (Stephanie Heuston-Willing), who prefer Matilda's boorish older brother Michael (Jackson Wells). She finds a reprieve in the classroom, where she impresses her schoolteacher, the thoughtful and loveable Miss Honey (Brooke Moltrum). Over the course of her first term at school, Matilda and Miss Honey have a profound effect on each other's lives, as Miss Honey begins not only to recognize but also appreciate Matilda's extraordinary personality. Matilda's school life isn't completely smooth sailing however — the school's mean headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Andy Lindberg) hates children and just loves thinking up new punishments for those who don't abide by her rules. But Matilda has courage and cleverness in equal amounts, and could be the school pupils' saving grace.

"It is so much fun!" said Jorja Reed.

"Matilda the Musical" runs through Aug. 18 with 7:30 p.m. shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees on select Sundays and 7 p.m. shows most Sundays.

The theater offers its Wine on Wednesday (WOW) program Aug. 14. For people ages 25-35, tickets are priced at $25 each. Trail Distilling will host a complimentary vodka tasting one hour before the show on Aug. 14.

For tickets visit Lakewood-center.org or call the box office at 503-635-3901.


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