The Ethel Lee Tracy Amphitheater in Ethel Lee Tracy Park will come to life with “Matilda the Musical” later this month. Theatre Victoria will host the annual summer musical outdoors rather than at the Welder Center for the Performing Arts in response to coronavirus concerns.
“I saw the musical on Broadway and fell in love with it. It’s a great story,” said Michael Teer, executive director of Theatre Victoria. “It really highlights the kids and what they can do in singing, dancing and acting.”
Focusing on children helps the theater continue to grow programs, Teer continued.
“By getting the kids excited, hopefully, they will continue in theater as adults and we can keep live theater alive in Victoria,” he said. “We keep cultivating because if you don’t cultivate the kids you don’t have adults.”
The moral behind “Matilda the Musical” is about overcoming obstacles by believing in oneself, Teer said.
“Everyone has adversity in life in different ways, so the moral of this story is that Matilda believes in herself and overcomes obstacles of family and school, and she gets her happy ever after at the end of show,” he said. “Self-determination and belief in herself gets her through each and every incident, and it’s a good message to keep looking to the future and the future gets better.”
Two young actresses alternate in the role of Matilda.
“This show is so demanding so it’s good to allow each of them to have a break,” Teer said. “Matilda never gets to leave the stage so it’s a lot for a young actor. Heck, it’s a lot for an older actor. And we get to showcase more young talent in Victoria.”
Myla Barrientos, 10, who sings both soprano and alto, plays Matilda in four of the seven shows.
Myla began acting when she was 9. She played Jasmine in “Aladdin Kids” with Theatre Victoria’s Triple Threat Theatre (T3) Summer Camp last year. She also played Chef Louis in “The Little Mermaid.” And she will play young Anna in “Frozen Jr.” in October. She is a member of the 2019-2020 Junior Theatre Company.
Myla reads her lines for Matilda with her mother at home when she is not practicing at the Welder Center for the Performing Arts three and a half hours Sunday through Thursday.
“I love singing, dancing and acting and being in theater,” she said. “It’s so fun.”
Her favorite song is “Naughty” because it’s a solo where she gets to sing and dance.
The most challenging part of playing Matilda is having two Matildas because one sometimes has to learn by watching rather than by doing during rehearsals, she said.
“It’s really fun because I have never gotten the main, main role, and it’s fun to work with the grown-ups in it,” she said. “You have to be really good and prepared.”
Teer said Myla brings exactness to the role of Matilda.
“She brings toughness to Matilda. She is militaristic in the way she creates her character,” he said. “She doesn’t want to get anything wrong.”
Lorelei Walker, 9, who began acting when she was just 4, also plays Matilda. She sings both soprano and alto. Her most recent role was Timon in “The Lion King Jr.”
“I read the book (Matilda) several times and watched the movie about 1,000 times and just wanted the challenge of bringing Matilda to life in the theater,” she said. “I really love how she stands up for herself and others.”
When she is not rehearsing “Matilda” with the theater company, she practices at home.
“I go through my book and my dances and I sing and try to go over it as much as I possibly can,” she said.
Her favorite songs are “Quiet” and “Bruce.”
“’Quiet’ has this feeling where Matilda is in her own world, blacking out everything around her and singing out to the audience, ‘this is what I want the world to be like,’ and releasing all her anger,” she said.
Lorelei likes “Bruce” because she gets to be sassy in the fast and energized number.
The most challenging aspect of the role for Lorelei is all the memorization because Matilda has a lot of lines.
“I get on stage and I feel like it’s my second home,” she said. “I’m thankful for the director and all the theater family for teaching me to be an amazing actress.”
Lorelei brings a freeness to the role of Matilda, Teer said.
“She really enjoys making people laugh,” he continued. “She does a really nice job of bringing across the emotional character of Matilda and all her complexities.”
Teer said both actresses bring all the characteristics of Matilda to life in different ways.
“It makes for two wonderful performances,” he said. “Each highlights something a little different so you get to watch a new show every night.”
Guests can spread picnic blankets, bring coolers and kick back in their low lawn chairs to enjoy the immensely talented youth in Victoria.
Teer said the Ethel Lee Amphitheater is not used much so this summer performance opens up another avenue for theater in Victoria.
“Hopefully, by us being out there, we can show this is a great venue and with a couple of improvements we can have a successful summer program for Victoria,” Teer said. “It’s definitely an underused resource. We are thinking outside the box and getting out of our comfort zone to grow and show we are an adaptable organization. We are giving people different experiences in different ways.”