“Matilda Jr.” Enchants at Young Stars Theatre

theatre review

PHOTO: YST | South Pasadenan News | The cast of Matilda Jr. on stage at Fremont Center Theatre

Based on the Roald Dahl book, the Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin musical tells the tale of a special girl named Matilda who uses her imagination and keen mind to save herself and her fellow students from an oppressive school, a nasty headmistress, and her own dreadful parents. Young Stars Theatre is back in top form with this gleefully raucous production that highlights all that is great about this youth theatre company.

“Matilda”, as with all of Dahl’s work, contains childhood trauma and profound life lessons wrapped up in a whimsical, even magical tale. At its heart, it is a story of perseverance in the most dire circumstances and the importance of love, friendship and kindness. The songs are funny, clever and infectious sung by a talented group of young, local actors. Deftly directed by Miranda Miller, musically directed with tenacity and gumption by Gloria Bennett with high spirited choreography by Avalon Kerr, this joyful production is fun for the whole family.

PHOTO: YST | South Pasadenan News | AwenRose Miller as Agatha Trunchbull and the cast of Matilda Jr. at Young Stars Theatre

Riley Barone leads the “Naughty Cast” in a star-making turn as Matilda while Annie Miller is delightful in her first role for YST in the “Revolting Cast”. Both girls give just the right spunk, sass and sweetness that has you rooting for Matilda from the first song to the last. Faryn Girt, Maddy Smith, Bennet Bostic and Leila Pennie are absolutely hysterical as Matilda’s horrible parents, Mr. and Mrs Wormwood. Akemi Wong brings a genuine sweetness to the role of Matilda’s empathetic teacher, Miss Honey, while Ella Dan is touching and charming in the role. And having hands down the most fun of their lives, are Veronica Koutsky and AwenRose Miller as Agatha Trunchbull! It’s a deceptively difficult role in that she is the villain and yet, with these two playing the role, she ends up being a crowd favorite because they are both so deliciously evil and laugh out loud funny.

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PHOTO: YST | South Pasadenan News | Riley Barone as Matilda in Young Stars Theatre’s production of Matilda Jr.

As is always the case with YST, the entire cast is strong and everyone is singing their hearts out. They do all the set changes themselves and it’s wonderful to see the older children assisting the littlest littles with their first forays on stage. And there are some darling littles in this one! The cast is beautifully rounded out by Judah Levine, Riley Gerber, Harper Goldsworthy, Ellison Schroth, Maddie Cooper, Beauty Fischer, Dune Galor-McPherson, Zoe Keller, Isaac Diakoff, Andrew Spackman, Alena Zepkowski, Daniella Belkin, Inez Brennan, Rose Orren, Lucy Diakoff, Charlotte Coto, Eliza Giles, Lexi Callan, Zoe Cho, Hadley Cowan, Mallory Semlow, Sawyer Goldsworthy, Abby Yuan, Risa Lehtonen, Rosie Tadmor, Violet Tajero, Ellie Song, Ramona Chambers, Leila Pennie, Olive Tada, Eliza Horton, and Solene Link.

These kids will make you laugh, cry and cheer as they work together to overcome cruelty and injustice with some ingenuity, a little magic, and a whole lotta love.

Young Stars Theatre’s production of “Matilda Jr.” runs through March 19 at Fremont Centre Theatre located at 1000 Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena. For tickets and information on this and upcoming shows and theatre camps visit YoungStarsTheatre.org

PHOTO: YST | South Pasadenan News | Veronica Koutsky as Agatha Trunchbull and Akemi Wong as Miss Honey in YST’s production of Matilda Jr.