No Cost to Enjoy L.U.’s “Matilda”

July 23, 2021

Miss Honey (Adrienne Miller) and her “bottom class” students witness the incredible.

Liberty Union presents Matilda, at the Liberty Union High School auditorium, 500 Washington St., Baltimore on August 6 at 7 pm, and August 7 at 2 pm and 7 pm.

“Tickets are free because we want everyone to come and enjoy this show!” said Liberty Union theater director Jill Henwood. “We’re also accepting donations.”

Inspired by the novel by Roald Dahl, the Tony Award-winning Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical tells the story of a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers. She is unloved by her cruel parents but impresses her schoolteacher, the highly loveable Miss Honey.

Over the course of her first term at school, Matilda and Miss Honey have a profound effect on each other’s lives as Miss Honey begins not only to recognize but also appreciate Matilda’s extraordinary personality. Matilda’s school life is not completely smooth sailing, however – the school’s mean headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, hates children and just loves thinking up new punishments for those who do not abide by her rules. But Matilda has courage and cleverness in equal amounts, and could be the school pupils’ saving grace! (Summary courtesy of MTI Shows website.)

The 2020 cast for the Wormwood Family:pose together. Colton Watson as Mr. Wormwood, Braden Shook as Michael (Shook now plays Mr. Wormwood), Kristin Morris as Mrs. Wormwood and Alison Sponseller as Matilda Wormwood.

“There is a little bit of everything in this show,” Henwood said. “You will laugh, cry, get mad, get happy all within the first few scenes. To take a line from the show, it’s ‘full of happiness and wonder.’”

LU’s Matilda was originally scheduled for March 13, 2020, but it was canceled due to the COVID shutdown.

“At first, the kids were okay with the postponement because we really thought we would still get to do the show later that spring,” Henwood said. “We never imagined the delay would be a year and a half.” 

The school reached out to MTI Shows requesting permission to perform Matilda virtually, but they were told that was not possible. 

“After the new year, when things started looking more promising with cases dropping, we began discussing a spring performance, but that led us to summer,” Henwood said.

Liberty Union choir director, Emily Fisher, reached out to the administration to ask if Matilda could be performed over the summer to which they agreed.  The administration also invited all original participants to return even if they had graduated or moved to different school districts.

A date was picked and the cast was contacted. Of the 60-some original performers, about 40 were able to return. Rehearsals began again in mid-June. 

“We’re so happy to be given the chance to show this show that they’ve all worked so hard on,” Henwood said.

Much of the show had to be reworked for lead changes, blocking for choreography, and tech/stage crew needs. Alison Sponseller (Matilda), Adrienne Miller (Miss Honey), Kristin Morris (Mrs. Wormwood), Emily Hendershot (Mrs. Phelps), and Josh Donald (Rudolpho) have all returned to the role for which they were cast in 2020. 

Matilda (Alison Sponseller) in Miss Honey’s classroom with her school mates.

“Additionally, we have been lucky to have a couple members of our faculty join us for this show,” Henwood said. “This is the first time we’ve had adults in the show, but the casting for Matilda is so much fun that we decided to use the talent we had available to us to fill a couple of roles. Miss Trunchbull, the ‘big, strong, scary woman’ as Mr. Wormwood calls her, is being played by school nurse, Jeff Dupler. Jeff has performed community theatre for around 50 years and we’re thrilled to have him on stage with the kids. He also used to teach the afterschool drama club.“

Braden Shook (Mr. Wormwood) joins the cast, taking over for graduate Colton Watson who was unable to return to the role. Braden had originally been cast as Michael in the 2020 version.

“Liberty Union’s musicals are a magical thing to see,” Henwood said. “We have a fantastic costume designer (Melissa Sponseller), and a genius set designer (Scott Simonson) who give these kids the closest thing to Broadway designs as they can. In addition to their many parent helpers, our cast and crew also have helped along the way with every detail. The students are not just actors – they are costume sewers, prop makers, set painters, backstage crew and cheerleaders for each other.” 

“We’ve been rehearsing since mid-June, and I am so proud of this cast,” Henwood said. “To come in to school, throughout their summer break, and be excited to be in the building, and having fun creating this masterpiece is a wonderful thing to see. The passion and sometimes heartbreak that is conveyed by these kids in some of these scenes (and I’m talking about elementary kids up through my high school and college kids) is a beautiful thing to see. 

“We finished a rehearsal last night with my youngest group (my classroom kids who are in Matilda’s classroom with her), and I brought them all in and we huddled,” Henwood said. “When we broke, we yelled ‘rockstars’ because they were amazing and they left the auditorium ringing.”

Tickets can be purchased (free or donation) at Liberty Union is known to sell out shows, so grab your tickets now while they are still available!

The original 2020 cast of Liberty Union’s Matilda, many of whom returned for the August 2021 production.