Complex musical takes stage
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.
"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.
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.
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:
Emily Granados Vallejo
Parents/Big Kids Ensemble:
Stage Manager: Giselle Ramirez
Assistant Stage Manager: Jasmine Chapman Macrum
Lighting Designer: Cora Beeman
Lighting Assistant / Board Operator: AJ Christensen
Denise Garcia (designer)
Briceyda Perez (designer)
Sarah Carlson (designer)
Jordan Clark Dickenson
Hair & Makeup
Nayeli Torres (designer)
Mario Santamaria (designer)
Box Office & Publicity
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