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Making memories in 'Matilda the Musical'

Tri-Valley folks at heart of Royal Theater Academy's latest production

Roald Dahl's beloved classic "Matilda" comes to life with song and dance when Livermore's Royal Theater Academy performs "Matilda the Musical" in Hayward this June.

Six shows spread among two casts are set for production next month, showcasing the bravery of a young girl who stands up to bullies and discovers her own remarkable powers.

"Matilda is a wonderful musical about the power of the child in all of us," artistic and technical director Trent Torain said. "We find beautiful messages for adults and kids alike throughout the show like: kindness, compassion, bravery, and resilience. And, parents and their children getting to learn and converse and understand these messages together is one of my favorite parts of the process."

Nearly 100 members of the Tri-Valley community, including 13 families, are working together to make "Matilda the Musical" happen over two years after it was originally scheduled and then canceled due to COVID-19.

"This particular production has been a significant and emotion-filled one for the entire company because it was the show we had started to rehearse pre-pandemic and was canceled in March 2020," said April Werner, who plays Mrs. Phelps alongside her family in the so-called Slippy Cast. "So the entire team has been thrilled to bring it to life now."

Slippy Cast member Bridget Werner, a third-grader at Pleasanton's Walnut Grove Elementary School, and Tolstoy Cast member Kylie Patterson, a third-grader at Dublin's Cottonwood Creek K-8 School, share the role of the witty and intelligent Matilda.

"I love playing Matilda -- it's always been my dream role," Bridget Werner said. "I love how she's really smart and she's a hero to me because she says, 'Even if you're little, you can do a lot.' I'm small for my age so I like that message."

Patterson also called psychokinetic Matilda a dream role and is particularly excited about sharing the stage with her father, Jayson, who plays the doctor in the Tolstoy Cast.

"Matilda the Musical is very special for me because it is my dream role," said Patterson, who has been acting since she was 5. "I never get tired of late night practices because I'm surrounded by talented people who turned out to be my friends. I have a second family in theater and I love them.

"I've always loved theater and performing," she added, "and I'm very excited that this time around I'm sharing the stage with my dad."

While the connections among the actors and family memories will last a lifetime, "Matilda the Musical," with its book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin, is not only packed with catchy songs and high-energy dance numbers, but a message that everyone, especially adults, can take to heart.

"I believe that sometimes, as adults, we can forget how big certain situations can feel for a child, and we write it off as dramatic or unimportant, and how heavily words can affect children long term in their personal mindsets," Torain said, adding:

"I hope this show sends a message that all children deserve to grow, to dream, to create their moral compass and stand strong in their convictions, even if not everyone believes in them. And, that even the smallest of us, can accomplish some of the most amazing things"

"Matilda the Musical" runs June 3-5 and June 10-12 at California State University, East Bay, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., in Hayward. Visit royaltheateracademy.com/show-info/.