Eight years after Roald Dahl published “Matilda” in 1988, a screen adaptation brought Matilda Wormwood’s world to life thanks to director and actor Danny DeVito. Now, the story of Matilda gets to be told all over the world, as “Matilda the Musical” is touring the country and will be making a stop in Hershey at The Hershey Theatre on November 10 through November 15.
Similarly to the transition that “Matilda” made from book to movie, the stage adaptation is just as smooth, as the audience will be captured by the cast on stage, including Matilda’s mother, Mrs. Wormwood, played by Cassie Silva whose credits include “Rock of Ages,” “Spelling Bee,” “Matilda” on Broadway and more.
“It’s incredible. That’s one of the things I really, really respect about our show,” Silva said during a phone interview. “The creatives have done such an incredible job of keeping the integrity of the book. It’s almost verbatim. All of the characters are so spot on, and it translates really well with everything.”
The biggest differences between the stage production and the book, according Silva, are that Matilda is portrayed as an acrobat and an escape artist in the stage production, and Mrs. Wormwood is obsessed with salsa dancing and vanity, instead of sitting in front of the TV and going to bingo like in the original story.
“It’s not too far off from what she does in the book,” said Silva, “and I like how they have turned the coin so that it still has the obsessive compulsive ways of this woman, but it’s still different. It rings pretty darn true to the book, I’d say. I remember reading it again right after I started and it’s spot on.”
Again being the keyword, as Silva grew up reading the book and watching the film in Los Angeles. In fact, she said it’s the first chapter book that she read, and used to read it in the bathtub.
“I do love the adaptation of the film, but the book is great. Your imagination can run wild,” explained Silva. “I may like the book better because of my imagination.”
It’s that type of imagination that led Silva to where she is today. Before she was a part of traveling shows and spent eight months in the Broadway production of “Matilda,” she was a young Los Angeles girl performing for whoever would watch.
“In Los Angeles, you’re either a girl scout or an actor. I was an actor. I’ve had an obsessive imagination from a young age, performing in my front lawn for anyone who would watch,” said Silva. “I’ve been learning on the job ever since. I got my first job when I was six when I was in a Jello commercial. I was dancing around a schoolroom with Jello pudding. I’ve been blessed to be acting very steadily since then.”
While the film wasn’t a musical, the stage production features what Silva calls “amazing orchestrations” and “elaborate, colorful lyrics” from composer Tim Minchin in the show. The music, from the very beginning, according to Silva, allows the audience to get captured in Matilda’s world.
The added element of music in the traveling show, which is in its fourth year, builds on to “Matilda,” which Silva said can be considered timeless.
“I have to nod to Dahl, who writes dark literature. I think one thing that is really special, especially about the musical, is that it’s actually written for adults with children in mind,” said Silva. “He writes really dark, but writes about things that the audience can relate to. We deal with bullying, loneliness, self-expression or my favorite, changing your own destiny.
“If you don’t like how something is going, you can change it. We have a line from the show that is my favorite. It goes, ‘Even if you’re little, you can do a lot. You mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.’ I think anyone can relate to any of those themes on a wild spectrum. That’s why it’s a classic,” Silva continued. “It’s like a fairy tale that you need that dark material to understand what’s going on in the world. That’s why I love my character. She portrays things that people see and they say they don’t want to be like that. We need those examples. It’s amazing that we have live theater to express those.”
The show, which started in Los Angeles in June and runs through June 2016, according to its website, features three different actors playing the lead role of Matilda. The actors – Gabby Gutierrez, Mia Sinclair Jenness and Mabel Tyler – will each do three to four shows per week, but Silva said they aren’t the stereotypical stage kid.
“Our children have a beautiful experience doing ‘Matilda.’ They are all treated exactly the same as everyone else, and they don’t get special treatment,” said Silva, adding that the only difference is that they don’t do autographs or interviews unless it’s a “really big thing.” “Every kid is humble. They have solid heads on their shoulders. We pride ourselves that our children are lovely children at the end of the day.”
Silva, a winner of the Stage Scene LA Award for best performance by a lead actress in a musical for her performance as Judy Haynes in White Christmas, said she doesn’t have a favorite show that she’s done, but she falls in love with the show she’s doing at the time.
“I buckle up for a whole new adventure. They are all different,” said Silva. “’Matilda’ has been a mystical and majestic ride. Being on the road has given it such a new, fresh element to it to be able to reach out to so many different walks of life that may not make it to Broadway to see the show there. That’s one of the best parts, at least for me. I grew up on movie musicals on VHS and in local theaters. That for me is great to share first hand.”
Tickets for “Matilda the Musical” can be purchased by calling The Hershey Theatre at 717-534-3405, visiting The Hershey Theatre box office or online at ticketmaster.com.