Chandler thespians go before live audiences - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler thespians go before live audiences

June 11th, 2021 development
Chandler thespians go before live audiences


It’s not often that “revolting” children get a standing ovation – but that’s exactly what will happen next week when nearly 40 Chandler and other East Valley kids charge the stage in “Matilda The Musical.”

The Tony Award-winning show inspired by Roald Dahl that has captivated audiences of all ages worldwide is being presented  by Gilbert’s Actor’s Youth Theatre and the Zao Theatre in Apache Junction. The show will run June 10-26 with evening shows on Thursdays through Saturdays as well as matinees on Saturdays.

“Matilda” tells the story of a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers. She’s unloved by her cruel parents but impresses her schoolteacher, the lovable Miss Honey.

Over the course of her first term at school, Matilda and Miss Honey develop a powerful bond, but school life isn’t completely smooth sailing: headmistress Miss Trunchbull hates children and loves thinking up new punishments for those who don’t abide by her rules.

While the story does have sad moments, Matilda proves triumphant in the end. With an outsize share of courage and cleverness, she saves her classmates and beloved teacher from the monstrous Miss Trunchbull while creating a new and happier world for herself.

“I think Matilda is a role model because it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in and to stand up for other people,” added 11-year-old Belle Elle, who plays Matilda.

It’s a theme that director Lucy Garner hopes to drive home.

“I think the relevance of ‘Matilda’ in today’s society is especially poignant,” said Garner. “My goal is for the audience to feel the opposition between good vs. evil, acceptance vs. rejection, youth vs. age, and intelligence vs. ignorance. “Through the eyes of a gifted and spunky 5-year-old, we learn that with a little moral courage, good can triumph over evil, and we can be the authors of our own life stories.”

“Matilda” delivers these lessons through high-energy dance numbers and more than a dozen songs including beloved favorites like “Revolting Children,” “When I Grow Up” and “Quiet.”

But along with the life lessons is a healthy dose of fun – and this is especially true in the set design, which came together over the course of six weeks and hundreds of production hours.

“The show is written from the perspective of the children, so a lot of the elements are larger than life,” said Stephen Hohendorf, artistic director of Actor’s Youth Theatre. “Matilda’s world consists of oversized books that seamlessly open and close to reveal different settings. 

“The entire proscenium is covered in Scrabble tiles that look like they’re falling right out of the bag.”

“‘Matilda’ is one of my favorite musicals,” said 12-year-old Hailey Klatt of Chandler. “I saw it at Gammage a few years ago and loved the set! Our set is so cool and I’m excited to perform on it.”

Since the first rehearsal on April 27, the cast has worked diligently to bring their characters to life – whether they’re funny, loud, fierce or crazy.

“It was imperative that we found actors who could bring these over-the-top characters to life, and we’ve done just that,” said Hohendorf.

“I often forget these are youth performers because their dedication to and delivery of their roles is unmatched. It’s so joyful to see them having so much fun up on that stage.”

Hailey Klatt, 12, of Chandler, plays dual roles as a nurse and an older school pupil. “I’m a snarky big kid and I’m having fun with my character,” she said.

AYT’s production features two casts – Telly and Book – that will take turns performing over the three-week run.

Not only does this provide stage opportunities for more kids, double-casting is a special accommodation amid COVID-19.

As for the kids, they’re thrilled to be back on stage after a long hiatus, which, for many, put an abrupt stop to the thing they loved most.

“This is my first show with AYT in over a year and I’m so glad to be performing again on stage,” said Hailey.

The kids’  hard work hasn’t dampened their energy: It’s time spent doing what they love most – with friends who have become more like family – to bring to life a show that resonates deeply with audiences worldwide.

Indeed, “Matilda” has won 99 international awards – including 24 for Best Musical.

“I think the reason this show has been so successful since its inception is that there’s a bit of Matilda in all of us,” said Hohendorf.

“She represents anyone who doesn’t quite fit in, whether that’s in your family, at school, or in society. With determination and a little love and encouragement from Miss Honey, she realizes that she just needs to be herself for amazing things to happen.”

“Matilda” is directed by Lucy Garner with artistic direction from Stephen Hohendorf, choreography by Jessi Rodriguez, music direction by Michael Snyder, set design by Mickey Bryce and Tanja Bauerle, costume design by Laura Wanstreet, stage management by Stephanie Coffelt.

The show will be performed at Zao Theatre, 550 S. Ironwood Drive, Apache Junction at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays with an additional 2 p.m. show on Saturdays.

Tickets are $20 in advance/$22 day-of and are available at or by calling 480-907-7050. Group discounts are available. Performances are expected to sell out quickly.