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In Review: Forestburgh Playhouse

Showing Off Our Talent in “Matilda”

by Bill Moloney
Posted 7/21/23

There’s a ton of talent in these here mountains!

The Forestburgh Playhouse has been providing professional theatre to the Hudson Valley for more than 75 years. Besides the obvious treats …

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In Review: Forestburgh Playhouse

Showing Off Our Talent in “Matilda”


There’s a ton of talent in these here mountains!

The Forestburgh Playhouse has been providing professional theatre to the Hudson Valley for more than 75 years. Besides the obvious treats we get to experience, the Playhouse has continually offered exceptional opportunities to so many of our local residents. They have worked in the kitchen, the tavern, on the grounds. Young people have been employed during their college breaks. A few have even taken up technical roles backstage or in the box office. But nothing compares to a child’s chance at shining in the spotlight. Over the decades, the Playhouse has given countless local, young thespians the prospect of playing in the big leagues. These opportunities have meant the world to so many of “our kids”. “Matilda” is, once again, one of those productions that showcases our local talent. And like I said, “There’s a ton of talent in these here mountains!”

The story revolves around 5 year old Matilda who was born to parental trolls. Not the cute forest beings, I mean awful people. Her parents, the Wormwoods, hate reading and anything intellectual. They send her off to a frightening school where one sympathetic, young teacher realizes Matilda’s potential and extra sensory skills. However, the school is run by the horrifically, brutal beast of a headmistress named Miss Trunchbull. (Every story needs a monster and she is it!) The plot continues from home antics to school shenanigans with twists, turns and revelations that basically lead to everyone getting their just desserts. 

“Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” is packed with peppy tunes that definitely offer various vocal chances for the ensemble as well as the individual players to shine. And they’re a lot of fun. Numbers like the opening “Miracle”, “When I Grow Up”, “My House” are only a few that will make you smile. 

The ensemble of this production really seems to play off of each other so well. And yet, individual performances clearly enhance the whole. Those unpleasant parents, the Wormwoods, are a riot. Jacob Ben-Shmuel as the ultimately sleazy used car salesman, who messes with the wrong people, kills it and continues to do so in his number “I’m So Clever”. Lu Zielinski couldn’t be any more annoyingly vain as Matilda’s mother and knocks it outta the park in her tantalizing number “Loud”. In a story with lots of not-very-nice people, Mia Massaro as Matilda’s kind teacher Ms. Honey and Tauren Hagans as the librarian, Mrs. Phelps who loves Matilda’s stories, offer us two wonderful souls that balance out this sometimes tough world with love and compassion. 

And then there’s the bull-nosed, monster of a head mistress Miss Trunchbull played by Robert Anthony Jones. (Yes, Robert!) Mr. Jones takes on this role with such comical venom, that I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or run for the door. His song about her youthful hammer-throwing days, The Hammer, is hilariously terrifying. I mentioned the ensemble and the local talent. Here they are. I watched Gavin McGinnis at a Forestburgh Playhouse kids’ workshop a couple years ago and here he is now lighting up the main stage as Matilda’s not-too-bright brother, Michael. Grace Ward as Amanda, Bella Koljenovic as the mischievous Lavender, Sophia Gago as Hortencia, Joey Getze as the cake eating Bruce, and Luis Mikal Sanchez as the worrisome Nigel couldn’t look more comfortable up there on that stage with fellow professional actors and dancers. Emily Ducey of Callicoon, Polly Juergens of Forestburgh, Kenzie Krier of Tri-Valley School, Tera Ward of Roscoe Central School, and Luke David Robinholt of Monticello Central School pull off some pretty neat song and dance ensemble routines. They also do a very commendable job in the various small roles and group scenes that move the show along. Very well done! I’m sure we will be seeing these young performers in the future!

And, of course, I cannot end without due admiration and kudos to the lead, Luli Mitchell as the one and only Matilda. Miss Mitchell is simply amazing. She really is. She takes on the role with such determination. Your eyes are glued to her whether she is telling a heartfelt story, reciting literature, or exercising those very talented vocal cords (loved all her songs, but “Naughty” was my favorite!).

“Matilda” takes us down a road where children are exposed to a plethora of life’s not-so-nice people as well as kids who find themselves in dark situations they never expected or deserved. But through it all, they can find their way, find each other, and find happiness. I can tell you that the real reviewers of the production, my 12 year granddaughter and 8 year old grandson, loved it!

“Matilda” will run through July 30. Tickets and info are available through the box office at (845) 794-1194 or online at fbplayhouse.org.


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