Posted Date: 05/02/2021
Royster students take to the Chanute Memorial Auditorium stage in a musical that Director Lance Burnett believed his students could relate to and perform well. He was right.
The middle school’s Vocal Plus class will present a public performance of Matilda Jr. on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. A limited number of seats will be available at the door, for $5.
“I felt that this story really has something that could resonate with students,” said Burnett. “It would allow them to get into the characters more easily. Most (of the cast) are students or parents and kids know about parents and students.”
Matilda, based on a book by children’s author Roald Dahl, won a Tony Award and was recently revised into a Junior version for students to perform.
“The music is amazing, simply outstanding,” Burnett said. “The songs are fun, lively, and lend themselves to the choreography.”
To announce which musical he’d chosen this year, Burnett played the song, Revolting Children for his class.
“I screamed. I was really excited,” said Paige Kueser, who plays the teacher Miss Honey in the musical. “I love the show. I’ve seen the movie and really like it. When I was little I loved Roald Dahl books.”
Eighth grader Ethan Burnett, another Dahl enthusiast, said not everything in the book is in the stage production, but “it gets in a lot of the main events really well.”
The show is set inside a school, with Kueser’s Miss Honey, and Ethan as headmistress Mrs. Trunchbull displaying opposite philosophies about how children should be treated and educated.
“She’s really forceful and loud and dramatic and I’m really loud, dramatic and forceful,” Ethan said about Trunchbull, a role typically played by a man.
Miss Honey, a former student of Trunchbull, is “a really nervous person through the entire show,” Kueser said. “In her own words, she’s kind of pathetic (but) toward the end she gains some confidence.”
Matilda, played by Ella Guernsey, is one of Miss Honey’s students.
“Matilda is a good example. She’s strong,” Guernsey said. In the song Quiet she sings about how frustrated she is while controlling her anger. She gets to tell people how she’s feeling.
A bright child who loves to learn, Matilda is unloved at home.
Eighth grader O’Neal Smith IV plays Matilda’s father, Mr. Wormwood.
“He’s a sleazy car salesman who’s trying to sell really badly made cars to the Russian Mafia,” Smith explained.
He’s not a good father figure.
“I always call (Matilda) a boy because I don’t like her at all,” he added.
With a villain – or two – some heroes and a song titled Revolting Children, there is much for the Royster students to enjoy in the production.
“This whole thing is really fun. It’s fun to do together,” said Smith, whose favorite part is “when my hair turns green.”
It’s also a challenge.
“A lot of the lines are really hard,” Ethan said. His lyrics in The Smell of Rebellion require “some really fast singing.”
The audience should expect to take home a few lessons from the show.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of a person you are, you can still do it,” Ethan said. Matilda is really small, he added, but “if you have the ability you should still do it, even if people don’t think you can do it.”
“Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself,” Kueser said.
“Be strong. Set a good example,” Guernsey added.
Three of the students, Bella Bane, Paige Kueser and Kayleigh Watts, all experienced dancers, served as choreographers for the show.
Cast members in Matilda Jr. include:
Eric – Jacob Frese; Tommy – Tommy Beasley; Amanda – Macie Moore; Bruce – Josiah Bates; Lavender – Jacqueline Smoot; Alice – Madelyn Kepley; Hortensia – Kanika Marcoux; Nicole – Carley Jarman; Matilda – Ella Guernsey; Mr. Wormwood - O’Neal Smith IV; Mrs. Wormwood – Kayliegh Watts; Michael – Weston Cleaver; Mrs. Phelps – Violet Stich; Escapologist – Colin Keating; Acrobat – Bella Barney; Cook – Emily Cunningham; Miss Honey – Paige Kueser; Agatha Trunchbull – Ethan Burnett; Mechanic – Makayla Becannon; Rudolpho – Max Hendrickson; Sergei – Eric Blakesley; Mums - Kayleigh, Bella, Emily, Makayla, Rhylee Thompson, Violet; Dads - O’Neal, Max, Eric, Colin, Weston; Big Kids - Emily, Makayla (Big Kid 2), Lucy Sheble, Ellie Sheble, Rhylee; Devon Kueser (Big Kid 3), Dejah Colding, Mavery Herman, Kobe Patterson, Eric (Big Kid 1); Russians – Ellie Sheble, Lucy Sheble.