Gas Lamp Jr. to stage ‘Matilda’

From left, Claire Liotta from Glen Ridge, and Lily Yezdanian from Clifton, will perform in the title role of ‘Matilda.’

GLEN RIDGE,NJ — The Gas Lamp Junior Players will be performing the full-length Broadway production of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” at Ridgewood Avenue School from Nov. 22 to 24. Co-directed by Heather Ballantyne and Erin Dilly, this is the first time the juniors will be attempting a two-and-a-half-hour hour production instead of the shorter, one act “junior” version, according to Ballantyne.

“I’ve wanted to do ‘Matilda’ for a long time,” she said earlier this week in a telephone interview. “I thought we’d get the junior show, but for some reason, Musical Theatre International, which had the rights, pulled it and instead released the Broadway show, and we took it.”

Ballantyne said that often with a 60-minute junior show recorded music is used, but the Broadway length show will have live music and will be more difficult to produce, with children ranging in age from 9 to 13 years old.

“There’s twice the amount of musical numbers,” she said. “The production requires more stamina and concentration, especially when it’s up and running.”

There is also a cast of 100, including one adult. Musical direction is by Jess Glover.
“We were clear to parents if their child were cast, they would sign an agreement that they would behave,” Ballantyne said. “It’s not only a long show, but a dark show. We needed everyone on board for a big cast and the material.”

Casting was at the end of June and rehearsals began in September, with the two lead actors playing Matilda receiving the scripts during the summer. Matilda will be played by Lily Yezdanian, of Clifton, on Nov 22 at 7 p.m. and Nov 23, at 1 p.m., and by Claire Liotta, of Glen Ridge, on Nov 23 at 7 p.m. and Nov 24 at 1 p.m.

“It just closed on Broadway,” Ballantyne said of the production. “It’s a contemporary show about kids and how one little girl changes everybody’s world with her outspokenness. It’s not a happy show all the time.”