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Tweens share title role in hit musical Matilda

Jenna Weir, Jaime MacLean and Hannah Levinson all star as ‘Matilda’ in Matilda The Musical. JOAN MARCUS PHOTO

Toronto’s hit production Matilda, The Musical features three pint-size tweens who deliver far-reaching life lessons to family-friendly audiences.

The stoic determination of the beloved, diminutive, telekinetic heroine Matilda, who stands up for what she believes is right, even if that means breaking the rules and being naughty, is the show’s running theme.

Winner of over 50 international awards including four Tony Awards, Matilda, The Musical is based on the bestselling novel by Roald Dahl and tells the story of a mistreated girl bullied by her parents. With her passion for reading, Matilda is drawn into an imaginary world, weaving sensational tales. In a myriad of toe-tapping musical numbers performed by an ensemble of children and supported by comedic antics, the thought-provoking story will appeal to anyone who has struggled to create a better life than the one into which they were born.

The CJN recently sat down with the talented Matilda trio before their rehearsal at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. The girls were asked if they have bonded with one another since production began, and with exuberance, they blurted out in unison followed by a flurry of giggles, “We are sisters and BFFs [best friends forever].”

Toronto-born and Jewish, Hannah Levinson, 9, and Jenna Weir, 10, share the title role with Vancouver native Jaime MacLean, also 10. At each performance, one of the three will be onstage while another will stand by in the wings.

“Matilda is brave, strong, feisty and fearless. I think we both share the love of books and the thought that if something is not right, you have to make it right,” Jenna said.

“She is not afraid to stand up to anyone,” Hannah added. “Matilda is so powerful and has an incredible mind. I am similar to Matilda because I, too, love to tell stories and have a big imagination. I am a believer in putting things right and standing up to people even when you know that you might get into trouble for it – and even if you have to be a little naughty.”

Jaime said she also sees similarities between herself and the play’s central figure.

“Matilda does not like it when [life is] not fair. I think I am very determined like Matilda, even if it’s little things that I want to put right. Matilda is also very brave – I am not that brave.”

Jaime MacLean, Hannah Levinson and Jenna Weir before rehearsals. SUSAN MINUK PHOTO
Jaime MacLean, Hannah Levinson and Jenna Weir before rehearsals. SUSAN MINUK PHOTO

All of the girls have been singing and dancing since they were three. Hannah has had stage experience, recently playing Lee Bouvier in the Acting Up Stage Company Toronto production of the Tony Award-winning musical Grey Gardens. Jaime has had parts on television and has played young Cosette in the Arts Club Theatre production of Les Miserables. Jenna is making her professional stage debut, but she has done professional work on television.

The girls have all read the book Matilda and have watched the movie to help prepare them for the role.

“We open with the song Naughty. It really gets me into character because Matilda is very mischievous and feisty,” Hannah said. “I think before the show, a little nerves can come out so Naughty just brings me into the role.”

Jenna likes Quiet. “I really like the song because we [the cast] are all on stage and everything is moving quickly. There are so many fast words at the beginning and Matilda has all these noises and visions in her head. Miss Trunchbull [the child-hating headmistress at Crunchem Hall Elementary] is screaming at her and it’s all too much. Suddenly everything is silent and quiet and we get to breathe. Every time I sing Quiet on the stage, I try and cherish the moment,” she said.

The girls shared some of their favourite activities when away from the show.

“I enjoy baking, especially vanilla cupcakes,” Hannah said.

“I read,” said Jenna, who is in the middle of the Harry Potter series. “I also like to bike ride to the park.”

Jaime loves to dance. “Especially jazz and ballet,” she said.

When they grow up, all three said they want to help children with disabilities.

Matilda The Musical is onstage through Nov. 27 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, with performances Tuesday to Saturday at
7:30 p.m.; matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Tickets at 416-872-1212 or www.mirvish.com

For a sneak peak at the show, click here.

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