Matilda JR- the musical

When: October 19-28, 2023 at 3.30pm
Where: Toneel Huis, Commerce House, Shortmarket Street, Cape Town, 8001
Tickets: R100
Producer: Wêla Kapela Productions
Artistic director: Amanda Bothma
Musical director: Tersia Harley
Choreography: Gia Urbani

It was a joy to attend the opening performance of Matilda JR at the Toneel Huis in Cape Town’s CBD. The musical is the junior version of Matilda- the musical. It an adaption by the creators of the musical, based on Roald Dahl’s Matilda and is geared for young audiences and performers. This production of Matilda JR is presented by Wêla Kapela Productions- based in East London. Direction is by Wêla Kapela’s founder, Amanda Bothma. She has made magic with this musical – showcasing the talents of 23 youngsters – age 6 to 13 years.

Yes, is a big cast and somehow they all fit into the tiny performance space at the Toneel Huis (opposite The House of Machines). The singing is a lovely. The kids are terrific as an ensemble and the principals deliver impressive performances. Bothma’s granddaughter, Mia Bothma is a delight as Matilda- quivering under the gaze of the cruel Miss Trunchbull (Mischa Forbes) and finding solace with the lovely Miss Honey (Sofi Bergström). Sofia Derkson (Mr Wormwood), Libby Whitfield (Mrs Wormwood) tease out the comedy of their characters – removing the fear factor. The kids manage to nail plummy British accents, while singing.

I loved the attention to detail in the costumes – quirky leggings and socks of the school uniforms (fabulous) and the inspired use of props. Not only are they singing, acting and dancing (lovely choreography by Gia Urbani, musical direction by Tersia Hartley) but the kids move cubes and screens around, to ring in scene changes- all in a tiny space. It is extraordinary to watch as they cue each other in and shift the props. They are doing it for themselves. Kudos to Bothma and Harley for the movement direction and placing– remarkable. And of course to the kids, for their concentration and focus. Watch them and you will see what I mean. I was fascinated by the older kids and how they prompt the little ones. It is very much team work and fantastic to watch.

This production is community theatre for kids and yet with a lean budget, Bothma has brought Matilda JR to life. The junior versions of big musicals are an opportunity for kids to perform and hone their skills. Beyond the showcasing of young talent, it is about instilling a love of musical theatre for youngsters – and their parents/care givers- building and developing audeinces. Matilda JR is a lot of fun, with a talented and energetic cast. Bravo to Wêla Kapela for securing the rights to the musical and for providing a platform for aspiring musical theatre stars. I attended the performance on a sweltering hot day and there seemed to be issues with the aircon. Hopefully, that will be sorted.  Take water with as there isn’t any on sale at the venue (there wasn’t when I attended). Take the small fry to see Matilda JR. It is a lot of fun.

Young and talented: Matilda JR, presented by Wêla Kapela Productions at Toneel Huis in Cape Town, October 19-28, 2023 at 3.30pm. Note the detail to costumes and the use of props. Pic: TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

✳ Featured image – Mia Bothma (right) as Matilda in Matilda JR, presented by Wêla Kapela Productions at Toneel Huis in Cape Town, October 19-28, 2023 at 3.30pm. On the left is Mischa Forbes as Miss Trunchbull. The cast ranges in age from 6 to 13.mages. Pic: TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.