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WHS's music and theater departments team up to present Matilda; the group is among just 3 high schools in the state allowed to perform award-winning Broadway musical this year

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIIN MUCH - Woodburn High School thespians have been honing their roles as they present Matilda the Musical Feb. 7-8 and Feb. 14-15. Walking up onto the stage is a transformative practice for Woodburn High School freshman Carmen Elsasser.

"I'm a pretty quiet person; I don't usually say much during the day," Elsasser explained during a break in her theatrical rehearsal at the school. "When I come in here to act and sing, it forces me out of my comfort zone, takes me out of my shell and forces me to be more outgoing."

The reticent-revamped extrovert Elsasser will be front and center on stage at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, when WHS's theater and music departments' winter production opens with "Matilda The Musical." The leading freshman and a talented, supportive team of thespians and musicians are looking forward to presenting their latest work for the community.

With more than two scores of students and orchestraters participating, the show will feature a veritable collaborative synchrony, including chorus and band members chipping into the act.

"This is probably the most complex show we've done since I have been here," said WHS theater teacher and production director Caleb Thurston. "You have a vocal component, you have a band component, and you have a lot of different layers within the show itself."

It's also a privileged performance as this year Woodburn is one of only three high schools in Oregon allowed to stage Matilda, which fetched several Tony Awards for its Broadway debut in 2013.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIIN MUCH - Woodburn High School freshman Carmen Elsasser, right, takes the lead role as Matilda as the schools theater and music departments team up on the winter production. Rehearsing with her, right to left, are Anna Koffler, Zimri Torres and Jesus Ortiz.

"We have to apply for the rights for any play we do. This was on Broadway pretty recently, so the rights haven't been available," Thurston said. "It became available to schools last summer, and they limit how many can show it – a supply and demand thing – and I guess we just applied earlier than others."

The director noted that the show features a book by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. It is inspired by the "twisted genius" of British novelist Roald Dahl and revels in the joy of childhood, the power of imagination and the inspiring story of a girl who dreams of a better life.

A descriptive trailer conveys that "when Matilda discovers she has powers that extend beyond her voracious reading, a whole realm of possibilities open up. Packed with high-energy dance numbers and catchy songs, Matilda is a joyous girl-power romp."

It's billed as a delight for all ages, and the WHS lead agrees.

"I think it's going to be a really, really cool show," Elsasser said. "It's an emotional journey and a very deep show with all the (transformations). Anyone, of any age, can get something out of it."

Thurston said the demure Elsasser will be no small part of bringing the magic out of the story and to the audience.

"She is quiet, and she's dynamite," Thurston said. "She just blew us away during auditions. She also has a strong work ethic, and that caught my eye.

"This is a role that requires that she has to change a lot through the course of the show, and that's hard for a young actor to do."

Elsasser, who participated in youth theater in Silverton in her pre-high-school years, said one thing that makes it easier is the strength and support around her.

"I'm really excited and (grateful) for the support and kindness everyone has given me," Elsasser said.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIIN MUCH - Woodburn High Schools presentation of Matilda the Musical will be a collaborative performance between the schools theater and music departments.

The lead said she's learned a lot of upper-class drama peers, such as senior Anna Koffler, who plays along side her as Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda's mother. Other characters in the vast collaboration include Richard Garcia as Ms. Trunchbull and Andra Pascalar as Ms. Honey.

Thurston noted that he directed and choreographed the show with choral direction by choir director G.B. Burgin and band director Nadia Maksimov, all staff of WHS's Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy.

"It's a good group; everyone is working on getting this play to the place we want it to be," Thurston said. "We don't train people to be good actors; we're training good people how to be work together."

Audiences will be the beneficiaries of that collaborative effort over the next two weekends.


What: Woodburn High School's theater and music departments present "Matilda The Musical."

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, Feb. 7-8 & Feb. 14-15.

Where: Woodburn High School Auditorium, 1785 N. Front St.

Cost: $7 adults; $5 students & seniors; tickets can be purchased at the box office 30 minutes before each showing.

Reservations: Contact Caleb Thurston, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 503-980-6275.


Matilda -- Carmen Elsasser

Miss Trunchbull -- Richard Garcia

Miss Honey -- Andra Pascalar

Mr. Wormwood -- Zimri Torres

Mrs. Wormwood -- Anna Koffler

Rudolfo / Dad -- Daymian Hahn

Michael Wormwood / Big Kid -- Jesus Ortiz

Acrobat / Nurse -- Lesly Arroyo

Escapologist / Sergei -- Caleb Larson

Mrs. Phelps / Doctor -- Valerie Cottrell

Bruce -- Ari Macrum

Lavender -- Carola Torres

Nigel -- Elowyn Haneberg

Featured Classroom Ensemble:

Destani Dysinger

Isabella Galindo

Emily Granados Vallejo

Shabryna Herrera

Ollie Knowlson

Milly Ocampo

Parents/Big Kids Ensemble:

Hailey Chaides

Fern Freeland

Alexis Ortiz

Kayden Kent

Katrina Sweet


Stage Manager: Giselle Ramirez

Assistant Stage Manager: Jasmine Chapman Macrum

Lighting Designer: Cora Beeman

Lighting Assistant / Board Operator: AJ Christensen

Set Construction

Janai Carillo

Jaden Heide

Ramiro Lopez

Marika Masters

Carlos Mauricio


Denise Garcia (designer)

Briceyda Perez (designer)

Kahlen Kirkham


Sarah Carlson (designer)

Jordan Clark Dickenson

Hair & Makeup

Nayeli Torres (designer)

Sumer Ramirez

Alix Martinez


Mario Santamaria (designer)

Box Office & Publicity

Alma Venegas

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