Making of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’: the Musical


By Sana Kanwal and Amanda Opel

See the video story: Lane Tech theatre department tackles Roald Dahl classic ‘Matilda’

With a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes, this high-energy musical takes audience members along a gifted young girl’s journey in which she navigates obstacles through storytelling and hope. This winter, the Lane Tech Drama Department presents students with a Roald Dahl classic: “Matilda.”

When she arrives at Crunchem Hall Primary School for Kindergarten, Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, discovers that she is a genius with extraordinary intelligence and has special powers of telekinesis, the ability to move objects with the mind.

The headmistress of the school, Miss Trunchbull, fails to recognize Matilda’s intelligence and refuses to move her to a more advanced class like Miss Honey hopes for. Drama teacher and the director of the play, Kirsten Hanson, describes Miss Trunchbull as the perfect antagonist. Miss Trunchbull takes advantage of the authority she has at Crunchem Hall as she terrorizes the students and the teachers with extreme punishments.

According to Hanson, the play has a lighthearted nature while still dealing with themes of abandonment, dysfunctional families and the importance of education. 

“[Matilda’s] family doesn’t really accept her for who she is, and she kind of finds her own way and carves her own path, and learns to be brave,” said Charlotte Weissman, who plays Miss Honey in the Thursday and Saturday performances. 

Matilda may be able to move objects with her mind, but her strongest power is storytelling, and she is a reminder that young children can take the reins and demand change for their own education.  

The musical’s narrative is visually complemented by the lively set design. 

Rosie Walsh, member of Stage Krew and president of set design, describes the set as “a school taken over by children and color.” The stage has many brightly-colored alphabet cubes scattered on the stage.  

“We purposely did that because in Matilda’s world, it’s all about letters and words and reading and stories, and we wanted that represented visually as well,” Hanson said.  

The project has been in the works since November, with rehearsals beginning two weeks before winter break. The musical consists of many technical movements that require a lot of rehearsal and coordination with each ensemble member. 

“I think some directors say, for every minute [of runtime], it’s like a good one to two hours of rehearsal,” Hanson said. 

With this ensemble of 30 students, there is a pivot from the structure of recent plays. 

“Last year was kind of an anomaly,” said Hanson. “We did work in … very solo,  small groups. We purposely did that because we were coming out of the pandemic and the students had to be masked and we didn’t want a lot of people on stage. So we’re kind of moving back to our traditional model of these big musicals with lots of people on stage.” 

The cast and crew of “Matilda” have worked hard to immerse the audience into Matilda’s compelling and magical story.

“One thing I like to emphasize in the process is that, you know, we’re a team and we’re working towards one unified goal,” Hanson said.

Performances of “Matilda” are after school Feb. 8-9 at 3:45 p.m. and Feb. 10-11 at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium.