Happenings Reader Contributed Schools

Bristow Students Bring ‘Matilda The Musical JR’ to West Hartford

A scene from 'Matilda the Musical, JR' which runs March 24-26 at Bristow Middle School. Submitted photo.

Musical theater returns to middle school after a two-year absence.

Some of the cast of the Bristow Middle School production of ‘Matilda the Musical,JR,’ which runs March 24-26 Submitted Photo

By Keith Griffin

Two years ago, the students of Bristow Middle School were just days away from presenting, “Shrek Jr.” when the pandemic upended their theatrical plans (and their world in general). Now they are roaring back with the hilarious children’s favorite, “Matilda The Musical JR.”

Based on the beloved book “Matilda” by Roald Dahl and adapted from the award-winning full-length musical, “Matilda The Musical JR.” tells the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

It’s a fun story that has left the cast members laughing during rehearsals. It certainly lives up to its theme, “Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty if you want to change your story.”

The musical is under the direction of Language Arts teacher Sloane Williams. She said “Matilda The Musical JR.” was selected because of her enjoyment of the movie. “I loved watching this movie as a young adult and then loved watching my children enjoy it when they were younger.  The element of magic and the fact that love wins over evil as a theme is something we all needed right now. Matilda’s love of learning is contagious,” Williams said.

Not familiar with the movie? Here’s the synopsis from the show’s producers.

“Matilda, a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers, lives with cruel parents who find her to be a nuisance, a lousy little worm, and a bore. When Matilda enters her first term at school, she captures the attention of Miss Honey, a kind teacher, and the two form a wonderful friendship.

“Unfortunately, the school is ruled by a tempestuous and mean headmistress named Miss Trunchbull, who hates children and delivers cruel and unjust punishments to all her charges. Matilda is determined to change her story, but will her cleverness and courage be enough to withstand the reign of Miss Trunchbull?”

Williams is excited to be back under the bright lights of the Bristow stage. “It’s thrilling and surreal at the same time. We left the stage almost ready with ‘Shrek Jr.’ The set pieces and full costume racks were ready to go when school was let out on March 13. One of the challenges we faced was building the confidence to get students involved again.”

After all this time spent in quarantine and social isolation, Williams said it is a good opportunity to get out and enjoy a classic, family-friendly musical. “Come and be wowed by the talented acting, singing, and dancing ‘Matilda The Musical JR.’ has to offer. You will laugh, maybe cry and hopefully cheer.  Spend some time away from electronics and enjoy the magic of theater!” she said exuberantly.

In addition to Williams, the other adults involved in the production are: Mary McSweeney, who is the musical director; special education teacher Emily Setzler, who is the choreographer; social studies teacher Jennifer Omartian, who is the producer; and band teacher Cliff Schofer, who is overseeing the pit arrangement.

At the heart of this production, though, are the students. Sophie Fernandez, who plays the beloved teacher Miss Honey, said, “It feels incredible. I was in ‘Shrek Jr.’ two years ago when we had to cancel the performances, and it was the first time I had done theater and I was really disappointed. I’m just so happy we get to do a live show.”

Mikey Townsend, who plays the villainous Mr. Wormwood (who is also Matilda’s dad), said if you enjoy the movie, you will love the Bristow production. “I think it shows the story very accurately, and I like that I get to be with my friends and perform for a lot of people.”

Brigid Feeney, who plays one of the “Big Kids” in the show, added, “The characters are silly and fun, and the actors that play the characters portray them very well.” Among the characters are an escapologist and an acrobat!

The show involves 38 Bristow students as performers. (A complete cast list is below.) An additional 20 are active as ushers, selling concessions, working on actograms, running the lights, or handling backstage duties.

There are four performances of the musical: Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m.; Friday, March 25 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, March 26, at 2 and 7 p.m. Reserved seats are available for $15 and can be purchased online. Bristow Middle School is located at 34 Highland St., West Hartford, between Fern Street and Farmington Avenue.

Matilda Jr. Cast List

    • Matilda: Stella Poulin
    • Miss Honey: Sophie Fernandez
    • Mrs. Trunchbull: Olivia O’Donnell
    • Mr. Wormwood: Mikey Townsend
    • Mrs. Wormwood: Eleanor Farquhar
    • Michael: Nate Weiner
    • Erika: Finley Valentine
    • Tammy: Elizabeth Mazlish
    • Amanda: Riley Howard
    • Bruce: Konstantinos Papasavas
    • Lavender: Rebekah Johnson
    • Alice: Sophie Barnes
    • Hortensia: Gabriella Wolpaw
    • Nigel: Marley Bloom
    • Mrs. Phelps: Kate Greden
    • Escapologist: Nate Kornbluh
  • Acrobat: Ellie Johnson
  • Cook: Hadley Smith
  • Mechanic: Nolan Maynard
  • Rudolpho: Max McGowan
  • Sergei: Neila Feeney
  • Big Kid 1: Sophie Simon
  • Big Kid 2: Brigid Feeney
  • Big Kid 3 : Natalie James
  • Russians: Jennifer Schlichting & Christina Griffin

Little Kids (younger):

  • Edie Kitzman
  • Arayna Krawczyk
  • Fiona Mastrioianni
  • Simone Davidson

Big Kids (older) + Dads + Mums:

  • Sophie Simon
  • Sophie Clark
  • Christina Griffin
  • Lamonet Bell
  • Emily Hu
  • Meghan Rossol
  • Julia Ng
  • Nolan Maynard
  • Max McGowan
  • Hadley Smith
  • Neila Feeney
  • Jennifer Schlichting


  • Direction: Sloane Williams
  • Music Direction: Mary McSweeney
  • Choreography: Emily Setzler
  • Production: Jennifer Omartian
  • Pit Arrangement: Cliff Schofer

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Keith Griffin

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