"Matilda" on the RHS Stage
Updated: Mar 2
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Tom Russo Photography
For many months, the cast and crew of “Matilda” at Rutherford High School have been rehearsing and preparing for this upcoming weekend when they will present the show on the RHS stage. This musical adaptation of the classic novel is sure to entertain audience members of all ages. This is Rutherford spoke with the RHS Spring Musical Director, Ms. Courtney McManus, and three of the actors in the show, Nico Schumacher, Milaina Risoli, and Bella Muro about the show.
TIR: How is “Matilda” different from other musicals you have directed at RHS in the past?
Courtney McManus: Matilda is a delightfully cheeky story about finding the power to write your own story. It is an adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl novel, which was also made into a movie in 1996. We were drawn to it because it is a musical aimed at children with messages that strike a chord with people of all ages. The touching elements are strung together with moments of comedy gold, which makes it stand out from the other productions we have worked on at RHS.
TIR: What are your cast members enjoying the most about working on this production?
CM: Our students have most enjoyed digging into the characters in this musical and making them their own. Since this musical is not as well known as others we have done before, this has allowed them space to explore and hone their acting capabilities. They also have been enjoying simply being in rehearsal. After last year, our students are enjoying each other's company and taking part in the creative process.
TIR: In regards to the stage crew, how have they worked together to prepare for the show?
CM: Our stage managers, Lauren Diaz and Rebecca Mathews have been at every rehearsal keeping track of everything that is going on. This year, there were many elements of the show that the students took the lead on creating. We have a dedicated team of set painters who have been creating pieces of the scenery for weeks. Our stage crew has been really enthusiastic this year, especially since we couldn't have one last season. We are lucky to have a team of students who are motivated to share their artistic and organizational talents with us!
TIR: What has been most rewarding about directing this production?
CM: We have the unique experience of directing many of our theater students in 6th grade at Pierrepont and then having them return again at RHS. It has been an awesome experience to see all of their growth from then to now both as actors and as people. This might be my favorite part of directing musicals in Rutherford (besides having our alumni return to visit).
TIR: Which year of high school are you currently completing?
Nico Schumacher: I'm currently completing my junior year of high school.
Milaina Risoli: I am currently a senior at RHS!
Bella Muro: I am currently completing my senior year at Rutherford High School.
TIR: How many shows have you done?
NS: Not including Matilda, I've performed in 12 shows.
MR: This will be my 8th show to date while being in high school. Shows including: Mamma Mia! (2019), Godspell, She Loves Me, Chicago, The Drowsy Chaperone, Something Rotten, Mamma Mia! (2021), and now Matilda.
BM: 2. I have done 13 shows both through school and through community theaters.
TIR: How is “Matilda” different from other productions that you have done in the past?
NS: Well Mrs. Wormwood has been a dream role of mine since I was in 7th grade, so this production is different from any other production since it's the first time I've played a role that I've dreamed about for years. Another thing that's different for me regarding this production is that I'm helping with costumes! Costume design is the field I'd love to go into when I'm finished with school so this show has given me a wonderful experience.
MR: Matilda is much more whimsical than any other show I’ve ever done. Not only does Matilda display some cool magic but it is a very uplifting story. The story is all about overcoming hard obstacles in life and learning we can all learn something from everyone.
BM: Matilda feels different from other productions I have done in the past because it is my last show at Rutherford High School. It also is very special to me because I never thought I would get the chance to play the role of Matilda now that I am 18 years old. I was recently talking to my friends about how I wish I had gotten the chance to play Matilda when I was younger and now here I am playing Matilda in high school! This cast means so much to me and I wouldn't want to have my last high school show with any other group of amazing friends.
TIR: What are you most excited for audiences to see during “Matilda”?
NS: I am most excited for the audiences to see all of my loud, obnoxiously colorful 80s costumes I wear throughout the show.
MR: I am most excited for the audience to see how the story instructs and entertains. The story is very entertaining in the way jokes are written and the comedic gestures characters perform (a prime example of this is with Trunchbull). However, the story also presents many life lessons. One lesson is that you have to stand up for what you believe is right.
BM: I am most excited for the audience to see Naughty and Revolting Children. I spent time choreographing Naughty on my own. It was the first number I have ever had to choreograph alone and it was a great experience. I had so much fun choosing dance moves to put into the song and I am truly proud of the result. I am also very excited for the audience to see Revolting Children. The choreography is perfect for the number and both the cast and myself have been practicing the dance for weeks!
TIR: Which character do you play? How has it been playing this role?
NS: I play Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda's neglectful mother who only cares about being fabulous. I've never done as much character work as I have done with this role. Mrs. Wormwood is such a dynamic but confusing role because you can play her in a villainous way because of her verbal abuse and neglect to Matilda, or you can play up the hilarious, ditzy, and absolutely fabulous side of her. I've loved diving deep into this character and analyzing every move and inflection I want to make in her performance, and I hope it translates on stage!
MR: I play Miss.Honey in Matilda! It has been a dream come true to play Miss Honey. I grew up reading Matilda and watching the infamous movie. Miss. Honey is a great role model. She is always kind and always looks for the best in people. Playing Miss Honey has taught me a lot about how to act as “Milaina Risoli”. Unlike Miss Honey, I am often outspoken. Playing Miss Honey has taught me how to be confident while also being nurturing.
BM: I play Matilda Wormwood. She is a mischievous, caring, and brilliant little girl (with a touch of magic skills). I have had so much fun getting to know the character of Matilda and understanding her point of view on life. It has been both hard and easy to play a six-year-old and my age (18) now. It helped me understand the maturity that Matilda represents while getting to reminisce on my childhood. I am so grateful to be a part of this production of Matilda and I hope the audiences enjoy every minute of it, just as much as I did.
“Being a part of the RHS production of "Matilda" has been an absolute blast! Seeing the hard work of the directors, actors, stage crew, and everyone else behind the scenes has made me remember why musical theatre is such an amazing experience. I would like to thank the directors for giving Rutherford teachers an opportunity to be a part of the "Parent Chorus" in "Matilda." It is so great to be back on stage! “ Pierrepont School Vocal Music teacher, Aaliyah Jordan explained.