MOUNT DESERT ISLAND —There’s something about lighting, hair, makeup, an audience, a stage and anticipation that make a live performance hard to beat.
Acadia Community Theater (ACT), a community organization that gives annual live performances on Mount Desert Island, was working on a performance of “Matilda the Musical” two years ago before COVID-19 halted production. As Maine’s pandemic restrictions eased, ACT’s board of directors decided to move forward with a fully vaccinated cast and crew, and now ACT is set to perform “Matilda the Musical” live from April 29 through May 8 at The Grand in Ellsworth.
With the absences of Isabelle Bohrer as the show’s musical director and Dani Robbins as choreographer, Camp Beech Cliff Director Matt Cornish stepped up to fill those roles. Auditions were held in December of 2021 to recast 20 actors who also did not return.
“It’s hard to say what caused the lower turnout. We definitely had some people who did not come back this time around,” said Cornish, who added that many newcomers joined the production.
“Matilda the Musical” is taken from the pages of Roald Dahl’s book, though Cornish said there are some elements of the production that are similar to the movie. It is about a girl named Matilda Wormwood, performed for ACT by Ellsworth fifth-grader Lucia DiLena, a gifted girl forced to put up with her rude parents and evil school principal, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, played by Cornish. Matilda eventually masters the power of telekinesis and uses it to overcome her challenges. This year, some young people playing Matilda’s schoolmates were cast in different roles. Those who stayed on were able to improve their skills tremendously, Cornish said.
“It’s wonderful that we’ve had the opportunity to recreate this community after missing in-person rehearsal over the last two years and while we’re sad that we’re missing some of the folks who [were] with us the first time around, it’s been really nice to be able to work together and bring something to life.”
Despite the challenges of rehearsing during an ongoing pandemic, the organization has had systems in place to keep things running smoothly. Cornish, who joined ACT’s board of directors shortly after he got involved with the organization in 2018, said that auditions and rehearsals were held fully masked.
“This is sort of a reimagining and remounting of the production that we were working on before COVID struck,” Cornish said. He is grateful to the cast who attended rehearsals after a long day of school or work.
After plans fell through to perform at the 1932 Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, ACT’s rendition of “Matilda the Musical” will take place on the Stanley Subaru stage at The Grand in Ellsworth. Showtimes are Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 30, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m.; Friday, May 6, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 7, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m.
“The nature of theater is about creating community. It’s all about bringing people together for a common purpose with a common goal to work together. We’ve been missing some of that in-person over the last two years,” Cornish said.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.grandonline.org or by calling (207) 667-9500. General admission is $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students (14 and under).
More information about the production can be found on ACT’s Facebook page.