The Cannon Theatre, a delightfully intimate, nonprofit community theater located in an old mill building at 410 Great Road in the heart of Littleton, is delighted to present “Matilda, The Musical.”
Based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, with a book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, and directed by Shawn Cannon, “Matilda” follows Matilda Wormwood, a bright little girl who immerses herself in books. Matilda is discarded and belittled by her dim-witted parents — her father insists on calling her a boy and harps on her “stupidity” for preferring reading to watching the telly — and her hostile headmistress, the outrageous and wicked Miss Trunchbull.
Reclusive, but with an ever-growing imagination and sharp mind, and with a caring protector in her teacher, Miss Honey, Matilda dreams of a better life, daring to take a stand against unjust forces and to grasp her destiny in her own, tiny hands.
The Valeri family of Leominster is featured prominently in the production.
Emily Valeri will portray Michael (Matilda’s equally dim-witted older brother), and she is proudly supported by her parents, Matthew Valeri as the Henchman and Lynn Valeri in the roles of Nurse and Henchwoman. Matthew and Lynn are also members of the show’s ensemble.
“In a family-friendly production with a story that centers around a less-than-functional family, the Valeris demonstrate how important the support and teamwork of real-life family truly is,” says Heather Pruiksma, publicity manager for The Cannon Theatre.
In the everyday life of the Valeris, Matthew is an airport operations shift manager for the Massachusetts Port Authority at Worcester Regional Airport, and Lynn a nurse educator for the nursing program at Mount Wachusett Community College. Emily and brother Nathan are freshmen at Leominster High School, where they study honors-level classes and are members of the school’s theater company.
In their younger days, Mike and Lynn enjoyed performing in community theater until life and their children took over their time.
“In 2018, Lynn desired to get back into acting and thought it would be a good family activity, as our daughter, Emily, had fun being in the Leominster All-City production of ‘The Sound of Music’ and our son, Nathan, Emily’s twin brother, enjoyed it, too, helping out backstage,” Mike Valeri says.
“We contacted a friend of ours who we performed with in the past, and he happened to be serving as the music director for Sterling Community Theater’s upcoming production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’” he adds. “He encouraged us to audition, and I got the role of Albert, Lynn got the role of Mrs. MacAffee, and Emily and Nathan performed as part of the ensemble.”
Since then, the Valeris have been jumping from one show to another.
“We all performed in New Players Theater Guild’s production of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’” Mike says. “Nathan performed in Stratton Players’ production of ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ where I helped backstage, Lynn helped with costumes, and Emily assisted the cast with costume changes.”
Emily and Nathan then performed in the 2019 Leominster All-City Musical “Beauty and the Beast,” where Nathan got the lead role of Beast and Emily was the Narrator and in the ensemble.
“Entering Leominster High School, the kids joined the school’s theater company and have been active in their shows ever since,” Mike says. “Lynn and I, in the meantime, joined ShirleyArts! for their production of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ where I was the Lion.”
While they haven’t been together for all their shows, they are very encouraging and supportive of each other.
“When we do have the chance of being on stage together, it is a very special feeling,” Mike says. “Even though you are family members, you also see each other as the characters you play. There is no closer bond than being on stage together, and this is for all actors, not just family members.”
Mike adds that “enjoying that experience with your actual family makes that even more magical.”After “Matilda, the Musical,” the next production is the Leominster High School Theatre Company’s participation in the Massachusetts High School Drama Festival, where Emily and Nathan will perform in “Lord of the Flies.”
“Nathan is doing set-building, and Emily is doing costume design,” Mike says. “Looking forward, the kids are interested in auditioning for Theatre at the Mount’s junior production of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Lynn and I have our eyes on Stratton Players’ upcoming production of ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Of course, another show or two may sneak in there. … You never know!
“There is no more supportive group in the world as those you get to know on the stage,” Mike adds. “This is how we try to live our lives — always encouraging, always elevating, always making sure we’re here to back each other up when one stumbles. I think in today’s world, this attitude is needed more than ever.”
Performances of “Matilda, the Musical” will be held at 7:30 p.m., on Fridays, Jan. 24, Jan. 31, Feb. 7 and Feb. 14, Saturdays, Jan. 25, Feb. 1, Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, and Thursday, Feb. 13; with two matinees scheduled for 2 p.m., on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and Feb. 8.
Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and senior citizens. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.thecannontheatre.org.
Other cast members include:
Clara Cochran (Concord) as Matilda.Jerry McMahon (Littleton) as Mr. Wormwood.Marina Apostolou (Waltham) as Mrs. Wormwood.Sally Reid (Concord) as Ms. Trunchbull.Julia Nelson (Woburn) as Miss Honey.Pam Ryba (Acton) as Mrs. Phelps.Rob Rains (Groton) as Doctor/Sergei.Katie Wiitala (Billerica) as Acrobat/Ensemble.Dan Cochran (Concord) as Escapologist/Ensemble.Michael Rains (Groton) as Bruce.Kate Murphy (Sudbury) as Hortensia.Eloisa Barraza (Sterling) as Alice.Joel Priest (Boxboro) as Rudolpho/Party Entertainer.Caroline Nash (Littleton) as Lavender.Nell Jacobsen (Boston) as Amanda.Riley Tang (Chelmsford) as Amelia.Audrey McMahon (Littleton) as Erica.
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