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Matilda’s mischief comes to BLT

A little girl will bring magic to the stage of Brookhaven Little Theatre.

Starting Friday, BLT will be performing a 2011 musical adaptation of “Matilda,” a novel by Roald Dahl that was also adapted into a popular movie in 1997. The musical was written by Dennis Kelly, with music by Tim Minchin.

At the helm is guest director Nick Rocz, with Believe Performing Arts. He was invited to Brookhaven by BLT.

“Essentially the story is of a little 5-year-old girl who is born to a family who doesn’t want her, doesn’t appreciate her and doesn’t give her the time that you would give to any child, much less one born a certifiable genius,” he said.

Matilda’s parents enroll her into a school with a terribly cruel headmistress, but she also finds a grandmother figure in the librarian, Mrs. Phelps.

“She challenges authority, she questions the world around her and she sees that the world could be better, but that doesn’t mean people who could be good don’t need to fight back,” Rocz said.

While many may remember Matilda as a movie for children, Rocz said the story has plenty to keep adults engaged with it.

“This little girl, she sees the world through her eyes, but this doesn’t mean adult stuff isn’t happening around her,” he said. “We sometimes forget adults are interacting around children, and this story is very much inclusive.”

The role of Matilda is a big job for a little girl — and even bigger than the leading role for some adults, according to Rocz — and so the musical was designed with a split cast in mind. Throughout the musical’s run, there will be two children playing Matilda each with their own Mrs. Phelps. Kicking off the run, Gigi Fitzsimmons will play Matilda and Celeste Smith will be Mrs. Phelps. Lela Beth Waterloo and Cynthia Price will close the run on Oct. 20, and the part will alternate between the actresses throughout the run.

Rocz said that while the story is the same, it’s valuable to see the characters interpreted by different actresses.

“I would definitely recommend that the only way to truly see the show is to see both Matildas,” Rocz said. “They really rise to the occasion in incredible ways.”

Rocz was introduced to BLT through his Believe Summer Camp, and BLT Managing Artistic Director Emily Waterloo said his help has been a valuable addition to the theater.

“He’s just very talented,” she said. “He brings so much energy and a fresh perspective and loves working with our community.”

That community — and the effort put into its theater — is one of the things that attracted Rocz to the city.

“When you work in professional theater, everyone is getting paid,” Rocz said. “When you work in community theater it really takes a lot. It takes a lot of fans and a lot of hours. To see people really come together and make magic — it’s inspiring.”

Magic is something Rocz said people should be expecting at “Matilda.” There are a lot of effects, including strobe lights, smoke effects and loud bangs. And there will be plenty of music.

“Make sure you are prepared for a circus-like environment,” Rocz said.

“Matilda” Opens at 7:30 on Friday with Fitzsimmons playing Matilda and Smith performing Mrs. Phelps. Tickets will be available an hour before the show starts, and seating will begin 30 minutes later.

Tickets are $20, but Emily Waterloo said that BLT is offering new student rush tickets, where students can get into any seat still available before the show begins for $10.