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Youngsters take over Owosso's Lebowsky Center for ‘Matilda’

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Almost everything about Owosso Community Players’ “Matilda, The Musical” is big. Almost.

The set is huge. Hundreds of small, painted, foam blocks cover the sides of the massive Lebowsky Center stage. The 3D adornments continue up three stories and decorate the entire proscenium. Dirk Rennick and Dan Wenzlick’s monumental design includes dungeon bars, oversized swings, a bedroom and an illusion of a large library. It took a team of 36 to put it all together.

The musical, with book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin — that’s based on the Roald Dahl story — has Jillian Boots conducting a skilled orchestra of 15. That includes three trumpet players, three keyboardists and two clarinet players. The band also features flute, sax, trombone, guitar, bass, percussion and— if that’s not big enough — a bassoon player.

“Matilda” has plenty of huge, showy, dance numbers. Co-director Erica Duffield choreographs battalions of skilled dancers who often fill the stage with perfectly synchronized flare.

“Matilda” has 33 ensemble members, including two foursomes that alternate performances. There are 19 cast members. Of the 52 performers, 36 of them are youngsters. It’s the largest number of children ever featured in a Community Players production.

It’s the little people who make the big production especially memorable.

Some are as little as third-graders and none are bigger than beginning seniors in high school. Alexis Bruner, a seventh-grader, commands the role of Matilda Wormwood.

Bruner delights with professional singing, acting and delivering most of the lines in “Matilda” in a manner that’s endearing. The musical has some dark themes of mistreatment and child cruelty and Bruner’s sturdiness as an actress somehow makes such themes less brutal.

Ava Louch as Lavender and Connor Miller as Bruce are other children that stand out in a cast full of outstanding performers. The entire classroom of children had impressive dancing and singing abilities for such youthful participants. Duffield and co-director Garrett Bradley deserve kudos for guiding and shepherding the children to be the competent and entertaining team they are.

Bradley also does some scene stealing of his own as the wicked and animated, Miss Agatha Trunchbull. In a busty woman’s outfit designed by Allissa Britten, and with exaggerated makeup by Duffield, Bradley offers an over-the-top performance of an overly crabby headmistress. Trunchbull leads a phys ed class, and despite her wickedness, does have a well-executed, end-over-end summersault.

Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, played by Mike Windnagle and Megan Meyer, are no less flamboyant. In a wild, plaid suit with matching tie, Windnagle expands upon his usual roles by being a more prominent figure we love to despise. Meyer’s athletic dancing, displays of vanity and powerhouse vocals make her the perfect evil mom. Rudolpho, played nimbly by Isaac Orr, is fitting as her lithe dance partner.

Mary Maurer suits the role of the meek, yet kind, teacher who befriends Matilda. As Miss Honey, Maurer forcefully conveys emotion and reveals singing chops that are anything but meek.

Anna Marie Pasley-Horn as Mrs. Phelps, gives a convincing portrayal as the kindhearted librarian. Her reactions to Matilda’s complicated stories are totally believable. Spotty audio, a lost wig on opening night and some difficulty understanding the rapid, British speech, were distractions. Overall, the little annoyances weren’t a big deal and were outnumbered by the boisterous energy onstage.

“Matilda, the Musical”

Sept. 13-Sept. 15

Fri., 8-10 p.m.

Sat., 3-5 p.m., 8-10 p.m.

Sun. 3-5 p.m.

$23, public, $21 senior/student

$16, 12 and under

owossoplayers.com, (989) 723-4003

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