Kindness counts in ‘Matilda’

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Larry Richardson is Mr. Wormwood in “Matilda the Musical.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Rain Barrett Verd, left, and Karlie Goldberg, are double-cast as Matilda in “Matilda the Musical.”

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Rain Barrett Verd as Matilda, left, telling Mrs. Phelps the Librarian, played by Julia Benson, the story of the Escapologist and the Acrobat.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    A classroom scene unfolds in “Matilda the Musical.” That’s Kayman Addison as Bruce with his back to the audience, while standing are Rain Barrett Verd as Matilda, Erin Gaines as Miss Honey and Taj Gutierrez as Trunchbull. Sitting, from left, are Eva Light, Travis Williamson, Fia Gaines and Trinity Grace Muana.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Taj Gutierrez plays Headmistress Trunchbull in “Matilda the Musical,” while pushed along by Jacob Lester, left, and Charles O’Neill.

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island

    Taj Gutierrez plays Headmistress Trunchbull in “Matilda the Musical.” In this scene from a gym class, students, from left, are Fia Gaines, Rain Barrett Verd, Kayman Addison, Abby Winters (behind Taj Gutierrez), Trinity Grace Muana, Simon Oyama, Travis Williamson, Eva Light and Savannah Hubbard.

Rain Barrett Verd, 10, is playing Matilda in “Matilda the Musical.”

Karlie Goldberg, 11, is also playing Matilda in “Matilda the Musical.”

Both admit to being a little nervous about having the lead role for this Hawaii Children’s Theatre production that opens tonight and is expected to draw a big crowd at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

But when asked if they were excited and looking forward to it, both smiled and said, “Yes!” with confidence.

After all, they get to be the heroine, and are on stage pretty much all the time.

“It’s really a lot of fun,” Rain said.

Plus, they get to play a little girl who’s not only courageous and smart, but, it turns out, has some telekinetic powers that come in handy when the cruel Headmistress Trunchbull is around.

It’s kind of a good-versus-evil story, and good wins in the end.

“It’s very inspiring for me,” Karlie said.

Director Carol Culver said the lead role was double-cast because Matilda carries the show. To avoid wearing out one actor, Karlie and Rain will play the role on alternating performances.

“And because we also have two amazing girls who could do the role,” she said. “When you have that kind of talent, you want to be able to utilize it.”

Culver, who also directed HCT’s “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” is confident this will be one of HCT’s finest musicals.

The show, about two hours and 20 minutes with intermission, has a cast of 32, mostly keiki. Ten are under the age of 12, and 11 are ages 12 through high school.

They have kept up with the challenging choreography in 13 numbers of dancing and singing.

“The kids are doing incredibly well,” Culver said.

The musical written by Roald Dahl tells the story of Matilda Wormwood, whose home life is haunted by horrible parents. While her teacher is kind, the school’s principal is a sadistic tyrant bent on making the lives of students miserable by berating and bullying them.

Matilda, though, has the smarts and the ability to stand strong for herself and her classmates. She is a little girl with high hopes and a huge heart.

Culver saw the play on Broadway years ago and “absolutely fell in love with it.”

It made her laugh, cry and become angry at what some people can do to kids.

“This little girl just turns around and inspires everyone to be better than they are,” she said. “She’s an inspiration to everyone she comes in contact with and, thus, everyone who sees the show.”

Dahl also wrote “James and the Giant Peach” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Kindness is key is his stories, which are often about children facing challenges, becoming of aware of certain things, and rising up to overcome.

“Matilda,” Culver said, is about how kindness makes a difference in people’s lives and how it even bests bullying, “and for children to be aware of how to be strong in themselves.”

Taj Gutierrez plays the terrible Trunchbull, a role that as he dug deeper into it came to have more meaning to him.

“It’s all about bullying,” he said. “I really think this character was brought up in a very negative light. She was bullied and she took the wrong path and she decided to bully others because she was bullied, and that’s wrong. That’s the story that I want to tell.”

Even if you were bullied, Gutierrez said, don’t become a bully later. Instead, “take that energy you have and put it to something good so it’s helping others.”

Stage veteran Erin Gaines plays the sweet, timid teacher, Miss Honey, who is also pushed around by Trunchbull.

She’s particularly happy to be on stage for the first time with her daughter, Fia, 9, who plays Amanda, Matilda’s friend.

“She’s fantastic,” she said of her daughter. “It’s really great to be in a show with her.”

Gaines said the entire young cast deserves accolades. They worked extremely hard, came to every rehearsal ready to go and practiced lines at home.

“They put in so much time and energy, I think a lot of kids will be inspired,” she said. “I know they inspire me.”

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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Wanna go?

“Matilda the Musical” opens tonight at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall and continues through Dec. 1, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $15 adults, $12 seniors/students (children 3 and under are free). Advance tickets are $12 at ticket outlets and at www.hawaiichildrenstheatre.org. Ticket outlets are: Times in Lihue, Kalaheo Cafe, Progressive Expressions/Billabong in Koloa, Papayas in Kapaa, Healthy Hut in Kilauea, and Magic Dragon Toy and Art Supply in Princeville. A special benefit matinee performance is set for this Sunday for Kauai food banks, with $6 tickets at the door along with a donation of food or money. Performances for schools are Nov. 19 and 21.

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