“Matilda the Musical” Opens with Joy, Energy and Talent

PaliHi students perform in Matilda the Musical.

If a resident wants a phenomenal opportunity to see a Broadway-quality musical, with a 14-piece orchestra, amazing voices and delightful choreography (for $16) head over to Palisades High School.

Then, settle in at Mercer Hall and be prepared to be entertained, to laugh and to just have a great time.

CTN saw a preview of Matilda the Musical on Wednesday and absolutely recommends this show over the recent Netfix film of the same name.

Still humming “looks over books” and talking in an English accent, hours after the show was over, this editor realized how much fun it had been watching these really talented performers.

Director Cheri Smith said, “We chose Matilda because we found the story of this courageous girl, who overcomes such terrible circumstances inspiring. The children taking control of their destiny is so empowering.

“Also, the music and dancing is just so much fun!” she said.

But in casting, Smith hit a dilemma that many directors would love to have. The competition for the three top roles, Matilda Wormword (Willa Browne and Sage Denham), Miss Honey (Aurora Finetti and Lexie Palmer), and Mrs. Wormwood (Maren Carrere and Tema Ferrene) was intense.

The six performers have top-notch voices, all can dance/move and all look right for the role. How do you choose who to cast?

“These are some of the strongest performers we have in our program and their takes during the audition process were screened by a panel who felt that it was important to showcase all of their abilities,” Smith said.

The decision was made to double cast the roles. “We only do that when we feel that it would be a critical loss to the production to cast one over the other,” Smith said.

Sage Denham is one of the actresses who plays Matilda.

The musical is based on the Roald Dahl story of a little girl, with wit and intelligence, whose parents are the antithesis of helicopter parents. They constantly refer to Matilda as a boy and tell her to stop reading and watch television.

Her mother Mrs. Wormwood is a hoot and her father Mr. Wormwood (Sammy White) is hysterical.

Matilda is eventually placed in a school, where she meets a loving teacher, Miss Honey and headmistress Miss Agatha Trunchbull.

One cannot ignore the formidable Trunchbull who hates children. Played by Theo King, who has had leads in Mama Mia, Oliver and Avenue Q at PaliHi, his presence on stage as the grand dame, is impressive.

CTN heard one Matilda and one Miss Honey sing – beautiful voices. If the alternate Matilda’s and Miss Honey are equally exceptional, it makes it easy to understand Smith’s dilemma. The same is true of Mrs. Wormword.

The costuming fits the musical perfectly.

Scenes change from a library to a school room to Matilda’s imagination through a projection of images on a screen at the back of the stage.

With the cast, crew and orchestra, there are more than 100 students involved in this production. Residents won’t find a more entertaining evening than PaliHi’s presentation of Matilda.

The show will play March 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. and March 18 and 25 at 2 p.m.  General admission is $16, students are $10 and VIP tickets are $25. Buy tickets online at click here.

Theo King plays the mean Agatha Trunchbull who hates children.

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4 Responses to “Matilda the Musical” Opens with Joy, Energy and Talent

  1. Jim McCashin says:

    Thanks for the early heads up the PaliHi play. I was able to get tickets! They offer 2 categories, GA ($16) and VIP ($25 + handling charge), but don’t say what VIP gets you.

  2. Sue says:


    The VIP puts you in the front couple of rows–since Mercer Hall used to be the “lunchhall” and now serves as an auditorium, some people like the sightline better up close. I usually sit off to the side in the back rows ($16) and it’s generally fine.


  3. Cheri says:

    Thank you so much Sue! We are always so grateful for your support. Just wanted to clarify that Monique Smith and I co-directed and choreographed “Matilda”. We also had the pleasure of working with, Allison Cheng as musical director and have Peter Ye conducting. Looking forward to “getting loud” and “revolting” for our final weekend!

  4. Jonathan Soleimani says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the Palisades production of Matilda. As someone on the technical crew, I can tell you that it took a lot of effort from Cheri and Monique Smith, our tech director Chris, and the wonderful cast, crew, and orchestra. I look forward to seeing you guys hopefully for second weekend!!

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