Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical Kicks Off The New Year At First Stage


Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical Kicks Off The New Year At First Stage

Milwaukee theater audiences young and old are in for a real treat this January when First Stage proudly presents Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical, Book by Dennis Kelly and Music & Lyrics by Tim Minchin. Based on the bestselling novel, this full-length Tony Award-winning musical tells the amazing story of a most unlikely heroine. Unloved by her parents and belittled by her child-hating headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, Matilda boldly steps up to set things right with her cleverness, the help of her friends and the support of her kind-hearted teacher, Miss Honey. She proves to audiences that everyone has the power to change their story. The First Stageproduction of MATILDA The Musicalwill feature three Young Performers - Taylor Arnstein, Reese Belland Marina Evans- who alternate playing the title role of Matilda. This production is presented by the Molitor Foundation.

Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical runs January 11 - February 24, 2019 at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at Performance runtime is approximately two hours and 40 minutes, including intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 8 - 18+.

Artistic Director/Director Jeff Frank shared his thoughts on why First Stage is presenting its first full-length musical: "In the past when we've been interested in producing a Broadway musical, we've looked into whether or not we might be able to successfully adapt/condense it to the 70-minute length that is typical of most theatre for young audiences companies. We would then work with the representative agency and often the original writers to develop the new condensed version. In this case the creators of MATILDA The Musical were not interested in a condensed version; and I have to agree that the story needs much more than the 70 minutes we typically have to tell - yet it is certainly a story we wanted to bring to our audiences. This amazing tale of a remarkable young girl who finds her voice and works to set things right was tailor made for First Stage - with our long-standing commitment to age-appropriate casting and our tradition of excellence."


Dennis Kelly (Book) has extensive theatre credits including: DEBRIS, OSAMA THE HERO, AFTER THE END, LOVE AND MONEY, TAKING CARE OF BABY, DNA, ORPHANS, THE GODS WEEP and THE RITUAL SLAUGHTER OF GORGE MASTROMAS. He has written the book for the new musical of PINOCCHIO, which opened at the National Theatre at the end of 2017, and in 2018 his new play GIRLS AND BOYS opened at the Royal Court. His plays have been performed worldwide and to date have been translated into nearly 40 languages. For television he co-wrote and co-created Pulling and wrote and created Utopia.For film, he wrote the screenplay for Black Sea, directed by Kevin MacDonald. He also wrote the book for the Olivier and Tony Award-winning MATILDA The Musical. In 2010, DNA became a set text on the GCSE English Literature syllabus.

Tim Minchin (Music & Lyrics) is a musician, actor, comedian, writer and director. He has toured extensively in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, performing solo, with bands and with symphony orchestras. He has released five DVDs, the most recent recorded with the Heritage Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. Screen acting credits include Robin Hood Origins (2018), Secret River(2015) and Californication (Season 6 - 2013). Stage acting credits include ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (Sydney Theatre Company) and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (U.K./Australia tours). Tim has written extensively for theatre and is the composer-lyricist of MATILDA The Musical (with Dennis Kelly) and GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL (with Danny Rubin).

Jeff Frank (Director/Artistic Director) has been First Stage's Artistic Director since February 2003. Previously he had served as Education Director/Associate Artistic Director beginning in 1996. Jeff is a native Wisconsinite who earned a BFA in Theater from UW-Whitewater and went on to the University of Utah, earning an MFA in Child Drama. Over the past 21 seasons Jeff has directed over 50 First Stage productions. Among his favorites are: THE SNOW, LUCHADORA!, PETER PAN AND WENDY, U: BUG: ME, THE NEVERENDING STORY, A MIDNIGHT CRY, PERSEUS BAYOU, Tom Sawyer and NANCY DREW AND HER BIGGEST CASE EVER.

Jayne Pink (Choreographer) is returning once more to First Stage as choreographer. She is also a proud and grateful parent of two First Stage babies. She graduated from the Royal Ballet School and joined Northern Ballet Theatre in 1986. She is best known for her created roles and close collaboration with Christopher Gable and Michael Pink, for which she was hailed as one of Britain's finest dramatic dancers. She was nominated for both a BAFTA and an Olivier Award. Jayne has since acted as répetiteur and coach for Milwaukee Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet and Colorado Ballet Companies.

Michael Pink (Choreographer) is the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Ballet. He is a prominent member of the Milwaukee arts community, demonstrating his commitment to the future of dance through new work, education and collaboration. He is also an international choreographer. His work has been presented in Europe, Asia, America and Canada. PBS broadcast his production of Peter Pan nationally in 2014. His production of Romeo & Juliet was also filmed by Milwaukee Public Television. His theatrical productions have been hailed as "Classical Ballet for the 21st Century." He trained at The Royal Ballet and worked with English National Ballet, The Paris Opera and La Scala, Milan. His credits with Milwaukee Rep include A CHRISTMAS CAROL, ASSASSINS, CABARET and NEXT TO NORMAL. First Stage credits include CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.

Jeff Schaetzke (Music Director/Director of Artistic Operations) has a long history directing, teaching, music directing and acting with First Stage that dates back to playing Romeo in 1996. Most recently, Jeff directed music for the First Stage hit THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL. Other First Stage favorites include: SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN THE MUSICAL, LOVABYE DRAGON; RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER: THE MUSICAL, ELLA ENCHANTED; BIG NATE: THE MUSICAL; THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER; BIG FISH (having also appeared as Edward Bloom); BIG, THE MUSICAL; MISS NELSON IS MISSING! and many others. Jeff also helps lead the Young Company trip to American Players Theatre. A lifelong Milwaukeean, Jeff has enjoyed working with many Milwaukee theaters including recently playing Father in Skylight Music Theatre's production of VIOLET. Jeff has also directed music for Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Music Theatre, Carroll University, UWM and Marquette University. Other credits: Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's THE DALY NEWS, two seasons at American Players Theatre and a 20-year relationship at Dominican High School. Jeff is a 2014 inductee into the Wisconsin Theatre Directors Hall of Fame. He is a proud graduate of North Central College and the Professional Theatre Training Program at UW-Milwaukee.

Sheri Williams Pannell (Assistant Director) has worked at a number of Milwaukee's theaters including Skylight Music Theatre, In Tandem Theatre, Florentine Opera and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Beyond Milwaukee, her associations include Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Utah's Old Lyric Rep, Madison Children's Theater, University Theater and University Opera (Madison). Her plays have been produced at First Stage (WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE), The Rep (Miss Williams, HARLEM NOCTURNE and THE CARE PACKAGE), Milwaukee Arts Museum (AN EVENING AT CHEZ BRICKTOP and WITH HAND AND HEART) and African American Children's Theater (BABY DEAREST and THE FREEDMAN'S CHILD). Pannell is an Artistic Associate at First Stage, Producing Artistic Director at Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and co-directs the drama ministry at Calvary Baptist Church. Pannell is an Assistant Professor/Musical Theatre Program Area Head at UW-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts. A graduate of Spelman College, Pannell also holds an MFA from UW-Madison.


Allie Babich (Acrobat/Ensemble/Understudy for Ms. Doherty) has been a First Stage "kid" since 2004. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. Since then, she has performed Shakespeare in parking lots, bars, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, at the Globe in London and the Blackfriars Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Center. Wisconsin credits include First Stage, Skylight Music Theatre, Milwaukee Opera, Northern Sky, Optimist and the Umbrella Group.

Kelly Doherty (Miss Trunchbull) is a familiar face to Milwaukee audiences since graduating from UW-Whitewater. Favorite roles include: Bodey in A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE CEOUER (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre); Pish Tush in THE MIKADO (Milwaukee Opera Theatre); Maria/Homer in Mr. Burns (Luminous Productions)and Williamina Fleming in SILENT SKY (Next Act Theatre). This spring, she will be playing yet another role written for a man in Skylight Music Theatre's production of KISS ME KATE.

Jackson Evans (Mr. Wormwood) is grateful to be back with First Stage after having appeared as Caractacus Potts in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG; Big Josh in BIG, THE MUSICAL; The Cat in the Hat in SEUSSICAL and the Scarecrow in THE WIZ. Regional credits include: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER and THE FULL MONTY (Peninsula Players); MY FAIR LADY (Lyric Opera of Chicago); RIDE THE CYCLONE, SEUSSICAL and SHORT SHAKESPEARE! THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Chicago Shakespeare); BUNNY BUNNY and AVENUE Q (Mercury); MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT, HAIRSPRAY, THE WIZARD OF OZ and CHARLOTTE'S WEB (Drury Lane Oakbrook); SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, PINOCCHIO and CINDERELLA (Marriott Lincolnshire); THE PRODUCERS (McLeod Summer Playhouse); KNUTE ROCKNE: ALL AMERICAN, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, and CRAZY FOR YOU (Theatre at the Center) and touring the country with THE REALISH HOUSEWIVES with Second City. He is a proud graduate of Northwestern University and Equity member.

Lyonel Reneau (Escapologist/Doctor/Sergei/Ensemble) is a Chicago-based actor and a graduate of School at Steppenwolf. He previously spent the past four years as a resident of NYC where he has been involved in projects spanning from TV and industrials to National and International Tours versions of SHREK and RENT. Some credits: MAMMA MIA (Eddie); RENT (Benny); WILD (Vin) nominated best supporting actor (IRT); SHREK (Donkey); FRENEMIES (Bradley) and ROMEO AND JULIET (Benvolio).

Molly Rhode (Mrs. Wormwood/Dance Captain) is a Wisconsin-grown actor/director/ choreographer, and much of her artistic education took place at First Stage. She is a very proud former Young Performer and is indebted to the many mentors that she met in the Todd Wehr Theater. Her recent directing credits include: THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL (First Stage); GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre); ANNIE, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and LES MISERABLES( Skylight Music Theatre); THE AMERICAN GIRL REVUE(Children's Theater of Madison); WINDJAMMERS DOCTOR, DOCTOR and DAIRY HEIRS(Northern Sky Theater) and MISS NELSON IS MISSING, ANATOLE and JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL(First Stage). Molly is the Associate Artistic Director at Northern Sky Theater and focuses on the development of new works.

Elizabeth Telford (Miss Honey/Ensemble) is thrilled to return to First Stage after having appeared previously in SHREK THE MUSICAL.In Milwaukee, she has also performed with Skylight Music Theatre (THE SOUND OF MUSIC) and Milwaukee Repertory Theater (2011/12 season). In Chicago, she has worked with the Marriott Theatre, Music Theater Works, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Theatre at the Center, Provision Theater, Porchlight Music Theatre, BoHo Theatre, The Music Theatre Company and Northbrook Theatre. Regionally, she has performed with the Old Globe Theatre and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. She is a member of Actor's Equity and is represented by Paonessa Talent.

Teddy Warren (Rudolpho/Party Entertainer/Ensemble)is a local Milwaukee actor. An alumnus of First Stage, he attended the Academy from a young age and appeared in shows such as THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER and WITNESS as a Young Performer. He continued his theatrical education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and he has worked professionally around the country. He was most recently seen at First Stage in THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW. He was honored to come back this past summer to teach at the First Stage Theater Academy.

Elliott Brotherhood (Artistic Intern/Ensemble) is thrilled to be returning to First Stage. Previous First Stage credits include: THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW (Understudy); ROBIN HOOD (Deputy); CRASH (Mike Deluca); SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS (Wiggins); THE HUNDRED DRESSES (Willy Bounce) and THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (Mr. Antrobus); and HENRY V (King Henry V) through the First Stage Young Company. Other selected theatre credits include TWELFTH NIGHT, THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD, JULIUS CAESAR and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Door Shakespeare and LOST GIRL (Peter) at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Solana Ramirez-Garcia(Mrs. Phelps/Ensemble) is so excited to join First Stage on this wonderful production of MATILDA! A UW-Milwaukee graduate, Solana has been a part of the Wisconsin theater scene with Forward Theater Company (FUN HOME), Renaissance Theaterworks (LUNA GALE), The Constructivists (GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES), Milwaukee Opera Theater (A CHORUS LINE and 1776), Kohl's Wild Theater and more.

Jamie Mercado(Artistic Intern/Ensemble) is an actress in the Milwaukee area and a Young Company Alumni. She is so excited to be back with First Stage in this production of MATILDA! Past theater credits include: Woman #1 in SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD (All In Productions); Extraordinary Girl in AMERICAN IDIOT (Milwaukee Rock Theatre); Anna in SPRING AWAKENING (Off The Wall Theatre) and Lupita in LUCHADORA (First Stage).

Austin Winter (Artistic Intern/Ensemble )is elated to return to First Stage as an Artistic Intern. Past credits include A MIDNIGHT CRY, PINKALICIOUS and MY SON PINNOCHIO. He is a recent graduate of Carthage College and The Open Jar Residency in New York. Austin is also a costume designer whose recent work includes the world premiere of DRAGON PACK SNACK ATTACK at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre. His portfolio and more can be seen on

A.J. Magoon (Understudy for Mr. Evans and Mr. Reneau) is aformer First Stage Young Performer and Theater Academy student. He recently graduated from Marquette University, where he played Snail in A YEAR WITH FROG & TOAD, Henry in THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH, Philiste in THE LIAR and other roles. Additional regional credits include work with Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival, Off the Wall Theatre, Cooperative Performance, Quasimondo Physical Theatre and Summit Players Theatre. See him this March as Thom Pain in THOM PAIN (BASED ON NOTHING) at the Underground Collaborative.

Ethan Brittingham (Understudy for Mr. Warren and Mr. Winter) is a recent graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy located in New York City. Ethan will be making his First Stage debut with this production. Other credits include: AMDA-SHOWCASE (Thomas) American Musical Dramatic Academy; INTO THE WOODS (Cinderella's Prince/The Wolf), PIPPIN (Leading Player), as well as touring with the KIDS from Wisconsin for two seasons (2015 and 2016) as a Principal Singer/Dancer. Upcoming shows include THE FABULOUS LIPITONES (Bob) at In Tandem Theatre.

Kaitlyn Serketich (Understudy for Ms. Babich, Ms. Ramirez-Garcia and Ms. Mercado) is excited to be back with First Stage. She graduated from Viterbo University with a BFA in Music Theatre. This past summer she performed at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse as Little Red Riding Hood in INTO THE WOODS and ensemble in THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALL SHOOK UP and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Some of her favorite shows that she has appeared in are 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL (Kathy/Dance captain), SHOUT! (Red Girl), A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (Hermia) and WEST SIDE STORY (Anybodys).

Stephanie Staszak (Understudy for Ms. Telford and Ms. Rhode) is thrilled to be working on a musical she holds close to her heart. She is making her First Stage debut with this production. Stephanie has been seen in various productions at theaters such as Skylight Music Theatre and Milwaukee Opera Theatre, with the most recent being PIPPIN (Ensemble) and DOC DANGER... (Jesai). In addition, Stephanie choreographs for high schools around the greater Milwaukee area and sings with Logan's Run Band.

The adult cast for Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical at First Stage includes: Allie Babich, Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Acrobat/Ensemble/Understudy for Ms. Doherty; Kelly Doherty, Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Miss Trunchbull; Jackson Evans, Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Mr. Wormwood; Lyonel Reneau, Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Escapologist/Doctor/Sergei/ Ensemble (Please note: this role was previously announced as Darrington Clark); Molly Rhode,Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Mrs. Wormwood/Dance Captain; Elizabeth Telford, Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Miss Honey/Ensemble; Teddy Warren, Member of Actor's Equity Association, as Rudolpho/Party Entertainer/Ensemble; Elliott Brotherhood as Artistic Intern/Ensemble; Solana Ramirez-Garcia as Mrs. Phelps/Ensemble; Jamie Mercadoas Artistic Intern/Ensemble; Austin Winter as Artistic Intern/Ensemble; A.J. Magoon as Understudy for Mr. Evans and Mr. Reneau; Ethan Brittingham as Understudy for Mr. Warren and Mr. Winter; Kaitlyn Serketich as Understudy for Ms. Babich, Ms. Ramirez-Garcia and Ms. Mercado and Stephanie Staszak as Understudy for Ms. Telford and Ms. Rhode.

The Young Performers cast in both the Diligent and Determined Cast are: Taylor Arnstein (from Fox Point) as Matlida; Reese Bell (from Cedarburg) as Matilda and Marina Evans (from Hartland) as Matilda.

Young Performer roles are double cast. Young Performers in the Diligent Cast include: Lucia Santana (from Milwaukee) as Lavender; Paisley Schroeder (from Waukesha) as Alice; Eloise Bejma (from Shorewood) as Amanda; Elizabeth Kuhnen(Pewaukee) as Hortensia; Ryon Davis(from Milwaukee) as Nigel; William Swoboda (from Whitefish Bay) as Tommy; Max Larson(from Milwaukee) as Bruce; Charles Elliott(from Milwaukee) as Eric; Jonathan Neustifter (from Racine) as Michael; Trinity Escalera (from Milwaukee) as Teen Ensemble; Abby Hanna (from Franklin) as Teen Ensemble; Lilly Frank (from Wauwatosa) as Teen Ensemble; Celeste Hermans (from Saukville) as Teen Ensemble and Sawyer Esten (from Cedarburg) as Teen Ensemble.

Young Performers in the Determined Cast include: Madison Jones (from West Allis) as Lavender; Sailor Ames (from Brookfield) as Alice; Ella Vitrano (from Greendale) as Amanda; KyLee Hennes (from Hubertus) as Hortensia; J. Jackson Vining (from Wauwatosa) as Nigel; Alex Radtke (from Cedarburg) as Tommy; Trygve Gundersen (from Madison) as Bruce; Gavin Miller (from Wauwatosa) as Eric; Nikolai Morrow (from Delafield) as Michael; Asauntee Bynum (from Milwaukee) as Teen Ensemble; Asha Metcalfe (from Milwaukee) as Teen Ensemble; Katie McCaskey (from Waukesha) as Teen Ensemble; Erin Fricker (from Brookfield) as Teen Ensemble; Ben Stull( from Mequon) as Teen Ensemble.

The Artistic Staff for Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical includes: Jeff Frank (Director/First Stage Artistic Director); Jayne Pink (Choreographer); Michael Pink (Choreographer/Artistic Director Milwaukee Ballet); Jeff Schaetzke (Music Director/First Stage Director of Artistic Operations); Sheri Williams Pannell (Assistant Director/First Stage Artistic Associate);Tyne Turner (Dialect Coach); Brandon Kirkham (Scenic & Props Designer/First Stage Design Supervisor); Jason Fassl, USAA, (Lighting Designer);Arnold Bueso(Costume Designer); Matt Whitmore (Sound Designer); Samuel Clein( Music Supervisor/Conductor/Keyboard 1); Paul Westfahl, (Drums/Percussion); Josh Robinson (Keyboard 2); Melissa L. Wanke, Member of Actor's Equity Association, (Stage Manager); Jade Bruno, Member of Actor's Equity Association,(Assistant Stage Manager) and Carrie Johns(2ndAssistant Stage Manager).

Tickets start at $25 - Tickets may be purchased at or through the Marcus Center Box Office, in person at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee or by phone (414) 273-7206 or toll free at (888) 612-3500. The number for TDD (for deaf and hard of hearing patrons) is (414) 273-3080. MATILDA tickets make great gifts for the holidays!

Group Sales- Groups of 10 or more receive 15% off main floor, regular single ticket prices on most First Stage performances at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater. Call (414) 267-2964 or email for more information.

First Stage Family Packages- any combination of tickets for three or more plays in the 2018/19 season - are on sale now. Family package prices are available at up to 30% off the cost of regular single ticket prices. Benefits include unlimited ticket exchanges, backstage tours and more.

Special events for Roald Dahl's MATILDA The Musical

Pay What You Choose Performance: Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.

Pay What You Choose tickets are available on a first come, first served basis with a minimum suggested donation of $5 per person. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early.

ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 1:00 p.m.

This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater.

Related Articles View More Milwaukee, WI Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You