Photo by Anette Araiza
Senior Emma Hill as Matilda Wormwood. FUHS theater students will perform Matilda in the Little Theater on March 17-19. All shows are sold out.
When opening night for Matilda arrived on March 13, 2020, the cast and crew were met with the news that the show was to be postponed for two weeks due to the COVID outbreak. But two weeks turned into a two-year wait. Although sets had to be reworked and many students cast in the 2020 production had graduated, FUHS theatre program director Micheal Despars produced the show this month . Final performances are scheduled for March 17-19, but all shows are sold out.
The FJUHSD lifted its mask mandate on March 12, resulting in some performances showcasing actors with masks and some without. Despars is especially cautious of these changes with masking. “I have some students that are not happy about being unmasked, and I have some students who are thrilled. It’s a delicate balance of making sure that everyone is comfortable, and everyone has been respecting those boundaries.”
Matilda is a show that follows the growth of 5-year-old prodigy Matilda Wormwood and her struggles with vain, mean parents and a cruel headmistress. It is painted through the eyes of this child, with such vivid imagination and fast wit that all ages will smile. Full of colorful costumes, shining lights, vibrant makeup, upbeat songs, emotional moments, visual gags and plenty of jokes, Matilda: The Musical is a show to remember.
Avi Block, the projection designer from the 2020 production, returned to assist current designer Cynthia Montiel-Cruz in the daunting task of matching up and smoothly running over 100 different projections. Montiel-Cruz’s magic helps set scenes and tell Matilda’s Acrobat stories in the library to Mrs. Phelps. The production’s lighting crew–consisting of long-time lighting designer David Block, Micah Plick and Montiel-Cruz, as well as spotlight operators Milo Moser and Sherlyn Acosta–runs over 200 specific lighting cues that give the musical the vibrant glow of Matilda’s imagination. (Photo by Anette Araiza)
Senior Scarlet Marenco, a sophomore when the show was first produced in 2020, is excited for a second chance at her dream role. “Mrs. Wormwood was the role that I really wanted the first time,” Marenco said. “I was cast as a feature dancer [in 2020], so this has been really awesome because they gave me the chance to come back and do it.” In addition to taking on a lead acting role, Marenco is the show’s costume designer. She designed a tearaway dress and the sequin costume shown above for Wormwood’s solo “Loud.” With the help of her costume team (Yae Eun Han, Sailor Marenco, Milo Moser and Sherlyn Acosta) and FUHS alumni and professional costume designer Blake Danford, over 140 extravagant costumes like these were brought to life. (Photo by Anette Araiza)
Senior Allison Duck, hair and makeup designer, found some complications while balancing colorful designs and effective masking. “With the clear masks, actors could wear fun makeup,” Duck says. “Even still, it’s almost worse. There are a lot of intricacies with all the stage lights and the singing; the masks fog up and you can’t see their faces. Even so, we’ve had a lot of fun with gemstones and bright colors.” With the mask mandate becoming optional or the use of clear masks, Duck’s designs can be shown off even further. From Mrs. Wormwood’s colorful blue, pink and yellow eyeshadow (Sydney Parker), to her bouffant platinum permed hair, to Mr. Wormwood’s three hair changes (Tari Cuevas), to the Trunchbull’s drag makeup and tight bun, the detailed designs shine on stage. (Photo by Alia Noll)
Extensive work went into the show’s props, designed by Destinee Beltran and Janae Pease and executed by FUHS’s Technical Theatre Class. Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake (Gus Pope) multiple slices constructed from foam and wood and smothered in real frosting every night, wriggly newts, and suitcases full of money are some examples. (Photo by Alia Noll)
This production of Matilda is accompanied by live music; typically, the spring musical would be performed in the Fullerton Auditorium, which has a pit for an entire orchestra. Yet, in the reduced Little Theater space, all of the music is performed by two keyboardists upstairs in a storage room with a window looking into the theater. FUHS choir program accompanist Amelia Thompson and former FUHS accompanist Anthony Lopez play the part of an entire orchestra together. (Photo by Alia Noll)
Marenco’s costume design branched far out from just the costume inventory already present at FUHS. Seen here, Rynn Wood’s Acrobat costume was entirely hand constructed by Marenco and Donny Cannady’s Escapologist costume was designed to match. Marenco constructed the entire Acrobat headpiece on her own, starting with a mold of Wood’s head all the way to the glittery sticks of fake dynamite. (Photo by Anette Araiza)
Junior Alexis Helmer is one of the many actors cast in the original show. Making her return to the title role of Matilda Wormwood, she welcomes the fresh start. Cast as the demanding lead as a freshman, Helmer returns to the stage with more experience and a different approach. “I wasn’t promised the role,” said Helmer. “You’re never promised anything at auditions. I had to prove that I am just as good as I was freshman year, and that I’ve grown in my singing and acting. That I could bring something new to the role that’s different from freshman year.” (Photo by Alia Noll)
The FUHS Technical Theatre class designed and created the set for this production; the class creates most of the FUHS sets. There are real book covers with different handwritten book titles on each, book pages, and pages about different women in history to emphasize the empowerment aspects of Matilda. The Tech class also spent weeks cutting down and repainting the original production’s set that was made for the Fullerton Auditorium. (Photo by Alia Noll)
Sound designer Andrew Batchler, soundboard operator Kimberly Camacho, and sound assistant Ashley Nava all work together to create perfectly timed comedic sound effects, from Bruce’s 20-second burp to the sound of Lavender’s newt plopping into the Trunchbull’s jug. The sound crew has to memorize the entire show in order to execute these one-off effects. (Photo by Alia Noll)
The production had hundreds of props, multiple prop tables placed in each wing overflowing with party streamers and lollipops and fake knives. Beltran and Pease are also a part of the running crew, leaving no possible way for them to dole out every single prop when needed. Actors are responsible for grabbing their own props. Pease even typed out a 17-page fake contract–that was actually the entire Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs script–for the Acrobat stories that was not even used in the final production. (Photo by Alia Noll)
Alongside FUHS choral director Stacey Kikkawa hosting vocal rehearsals and FUHS dance director Andrea Oberlander choreographing the show, alumni were also part of the directing process. Elizabeth Gimple helped with choreography, creating the big ending company dance number “Revolting Children.” Technical consultant Georgia Rau observed rehearsals and took notes that were then given to the cast. (Photo courtesy of fullertonacts.com) Serving backstage, stage managers give out cues for every single set change or wall movement, running crew having to execute them in time together without fail. Stage managers Savannah Worrell and Aurora Edmonson, along with assistant stage manager Lucia Castrejon, have been present at every single rehearsal. Flyman Maddie Engelhardt, marketing designer Cole Hanzel, Pease, and Beltran work together to quickly and efficiently change from a children’s birthday party to a hospital back to the party and then to the Wormwood’s house all within one number. (Photo by Anette Araiza)