The Backstage Buzz: Matilda The Musical

Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey

It is 30 minutes to show time for the Little Theatre of Winston Salem’s production of Matilda The Musical. The audience is taking their seats and buzzing with anticipation. Soon the lights will go down and the actors and actresses will transport the audience to a brilliant world of color, fun, and life. Right now all the audience can see is the set clad stage ready for the performance to begin. Little do they know what has happened behind the stage…

Today, I am not performing. Instead I am a dresser working backstage to make sure that the costumes and wigs of Matilda flow seamlessly. My mother and I arrive at 6:00pm—an hour and a half before the show starts. The actors and actresses are here too. At the moment, they are just regular people like you and me.

Come with me to take a sneak peak into the girls dressing room. Ria Matheson (Miss. Honey) is putting her hair up in pin curls for her wig; Alora Engel (Matilda) is having her hair styled to create the look of the title role; Genevieve Amigone (Amanda), Page Morphis (Lavender), and the other young ladies are changing from street clothes to their whimsical costumes for the top of the show; and the wonderful ensemble is hard at work with curling irons and lipstick as they prepare for the musical’s many numbers.

While I am presetting costumes for our first quick changes, step across the hall with Hayley Hansen (Mrs. Wormwood) and Ria to the men’s dressing room and wig department. There my mom will put on their wigs. Both ladies have a skin tone wig cap covering their pin curled hair. Here is a quick glance of what my mom does next: 1) she pulls the wigs over their heads, 2) she U-Pins the wigs into their wig caps, 3) she Bobby Pins the wigs to make sure they are secured, and finally 4) she does a tightness check. In Matilda, a show of cartwheels and jumps, it is very important that the wigs do not come off.

It is now 15 minutes to places. My mom and I walk up the long hallway to the prop room where we do all our quick changes. As we do, we pass by the boys dressing room where Director and Choreographer, Katie Jo Icenhower, is giving notes and words of encouragement to Nick Kelly (Bruce) and Alex Nunley (Michael Wormwood).

5 minutes to places! From Kevin Hampton (Stage Manager) to Matthew Cravey (Mr. Wormwood), who is carefully checking his props, there is a wave of excitement running through the entire cast and crew.

Places have been called. Over the last hour and a half great change has taken place. You can see as the cast parades by our table on the way to the wings of the stage, that they are no longer themselves but the characters they portray. Let’s take Seph Schonekas (Miss. Trunchbull) for example. Seph’s personality has changed immensely. He is no longer his positive self. He now wears not only the clothes of but the cruel essence of Miss. Trunchbull. You can see it in the way he walks and hear it in his voice. Hayley is another great example. She is now oozing Mrs. Wormwood from her glitzy costume jewelry to her oh-so-high-heeled character shoes. When she gets on stage, her character will explode.

A hush of magic falls over the audience as the house lights go down and the opening number begins.