Matilda Comes to PPAC with Miss Honey by Her Side

As a teacher, I have to admit I gravitate toward stories involving education. As a literature/theater nerd, I think Roald Dahl’s work was simply amazing. And if those worlds could actually collide?Rolling  into the Providence Performing Arts Center next week is Matilda, the Broadway musical based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. This show nabbed five Tonys in 2013, and is toward the tail end of a successful run throughout the United States. Get to the head of the class, and buy your tickets today, as this certainly sounds like a show to remember.

For those familiar with the story, you’ll remember that Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher, is the teacher. You know, the one teacher teachers aspire to be! On tour Miss Honey is played by Jennifer Bowles, herself no stranger to the world of education. Bowles comes from a family of teachers; both her parents are teachers, as are many other family members, so playing a teacher wasn’t too much of a stretch for her. (This may sound like hyperbole, but ask any teacher with a family — it becomes a family affair!)

Bowles spent three and a half years as a member of the Broadway production as both an acrobat, and Miss Honey’s understudy. Having the role on tour has given her the time needed to really sink her teeth into the character. After such a long time with one show (which is virtually unheard of) one would imagine that Bowles would grow weary of the script, but she hasn’t. In fact she is still enamored by the role, and the process itself. “The joy of being able to play this role everyday, and grow the character, that’s such a joy.”

As a shy student herself growing up, Bowles connects to Miss Honey in a way that is unusual to think of when thinking of performers. “I couldn’t speak in front of the class, or walk to the teacher’s desk alone,” she recalled. Being a shy kid, it was her brother who got her into theater. “In high school, my big brother told my parents I needed to get involved.” She was encouraged to audition for the school musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and it stuck. That’s not to say that she’s left the girl she was behind. In fact it’s something she uses onstage. “In the song “Pathetic” she (Miss Honey) has trouble showing her strength, I can tap into myself.” An example of the fact that the experiences we have in school can affect our future, something that audiences will undoubtedly feel when they sit down to see Matilda  this week.  

Matilda is playing at the Providence Performing Arts Center from Wednesday, May 17, to Sunday, May 21. Tickets can be ordered online at ppacri.org or by calling 401-421-2787.

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