Roald Dahl’s beloved story about a young misunderstood girl who discovers she has powers is one of the most popular stories to come from the celebrated author. Matilda has been wildly successful as a book, made into a well-received movie and now takes center stage as a musical at the Walnut Street Theatre. Laura Giknis who plays Miss Honey in the show talks about why the musical is so special, what audiences should expect from the characters and why the story is more than just a children’s book.
Laura Giknis gives the scoop on the Walnut Street Theatre’s new show
What does the music aspect add to the story for this show at the Walnut Street Theatre?
Laura Giknis: John Daniels is our music director and the score is incredible, its super sophisticated and I love how it’s added to the show because it is a different type of child’s story, it’s just so much more than that. There’s a lightheartedness in Miss Honey that is definitely played out in the music but the whole score is to the point and very simple, there’s no lavish you know big 11 o’clock number for Miss Honey. She does have My House which is her number in the second act and it’s semi-grand in the music but mostly it’s just with emotion. Meanwhile Mrs. Trunchbull, she has haunting music and a big ridiculous dance number that adds to the absurdity, there’s underscoring through almost all of the show. It sets the tone of how we should be feeling, it adds that flair and it kind of narrates the story with us speaking.
What was it like for you to take on the role of Miss Honey?
Laura Giknis: Because it was my favorite book, I am holding myself to a ridiculously high standard because I wanna make my young self proud and I hope that kids are still reading that book even today and I know if I saw the show as a kid, I would want Miss Honey to give everything she had and I would look forward to seeing Miss Honey on stage. It’s very odd honestly because it was someone that I loved so much as a kid and then you’re kind of embodying them as an adult, this job is so interesting that way. Miss Honey is a very complex character, they go kind of in-depth on the torture that Miss Honey went through. Miss Honey is so much more than a polite, nice, kind teacher, she has undergone so much trauma and to be able to keep that inside and be able to treat the kids the way she always wanted to be treated- it’s really difficult every day but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s such an honor and I’m so happy that the Walnut is trusting me in a role that means so much to be.
What was it like working such a young cast at the Walnut Street Theatre?
Laura Giknis: I had never worked with a cast like this, I did Seussical when I was still in college out in Ocean City and we worked with children, but nothing like this, it’s really incredible. There’s two group of kids, a green team and a red team and they trade off, one does the shows during the week and then the other cast does the weekend shows, they all have such individual unique personalities, they bring so much to each of the characters. The age range I think is from five to thirteen or fourteen, and they dance, they sing, they act, they are the triple threat at age like six, it is incredible. I’m like good on those parents! They go home, the parents must rehearse with them, the kids have to go to school still, it’s such a huge responsibility and all of them are completely up to the challenge, they’re taking it so seriously. We’re doing twelve hour days, I mean I don’t think I’d be able to do this as a kid my mind would just wander.
What should the people of Philadelphia expect for the show at the Walnut Street Theatre?
Laura Giknis: I think what the audiences should be prepared for is to be transported back into their childhood. Honestly, it was my favorite book as a girl, and maybe even now, I don’t know why it holds such an amazing special part in everyone’s hearts even today. I think because Roald Dahl had an exceptional way with imagery, even at a young age I felt transported into this absurd world, I couldn’t get enough and I hope that when audiences walk in and take their seats they’re able to just let their childhood mind take over. I also think that people should keep in mind that even though it’s a children’s book, it has an edge, it has this sort of grittiness that doesn’t make it a typical kid’s story, so anyone of any age can enjoy it. People should let themselves go, let themselves get enveloped into this story that is just so amazing.
If you go: Nov. 14- Jan.6, times vary, Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia, ticket prices vary, walnutstreettheatre.org