With ‘Matilda Jr.,’ Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre’s 2023-2024 Season is Officially Underway

"Matilda Jr." tells the tale of a bookish girl, with hidden powers, who finds herself at odds with her unfriendly parents and cruel school headmistress Miss Trunchbull

By Mike Kordenbrock
The Bigfork Playhouse’s Children’s Theatre performs "Matilda Jr." Photo Courtesy Brach Thomson

The new season of the Bigfork Playhouse’s Children’s Theatre is underway, with a lineup of four musicals, two musical events, and a variety show, all planned through next spring.

This season kicked off on Sept. 22, with a performance of “Matilda Jr.,” a musical based on Roald Dahl’s children’s novel “Matilda,” and the 1996 movie adaptation. Auditions for those in second through 12th grade were held a little over two weeks before opening night, and Brach Thomson, the artistic director for the children’s theater, said turnout was strong, with about 100 kids showing up for a chance to be in a production with only 45 spots available for casting.

“Matilda Jr.” is tailored to youth performers, and Thomson said that mostly comes down to the songs being composed in a way that’s easier for different voice types to sing. The show still tells the tale of a bookish girl, with hidden powers, who finds herself at odds with her unfriendly parents and cruel school headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Three more performances of “Matilda Jr.” are scheduled for Sept. 29 and Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, and Thomson said attendance was good for the first week of the show.

Following Matilda, the next show on the season schedule is “Touch of Christmas” on Dec. 2, which is a concert featuring Thomson playing “a cave of keyboards,” and accompanied by special guests and a children’s choir. The show features lively arrangements of Christmas classics, some of them involving synthesizers and other music mixed over. One example, Thomson said, is a mashup of Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” with “Come All Ye Faithful,” for a version called “Como All Ye Faithful.”

From there, the season continues with its holiday theme for a six-show run of “Totally Awesome Christmas Carol,” featuring a cast ranging in age from third grade through adulthood. “Totally Awesome Christmas Carol” has 7:30 p.m. performances on Dec. 8, 9, 15 and 16, and 2 p.m. performances on Dec. 10 and Dec. 17. It’s a version of “A Christmas Carol” set in the 1980s and featuring nods to musical performers across the decades, including Bob Marley, Cyndi Lauper, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson.

The new year will kick off with auditions on Jan. 2 for those in second through sixth grade who want to be in “Guys and Dolls Jr.,” which will have its opening night Jan. 6, and additional shows Jan. 27, Feb. 2, Feb. 3 and Feb. 4. On March 1, “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” will open, with additional performances March 2, March 8, March 9 and March 10.

The season will begin to wind down with the variety show “Cowabunga 2024” scheduled for April 12 and 13. “Cowabgunga” is done in conjunction with the after school program Bigfork ACES, and it’s what Thomson called a “feel good” event featuring a variety of people and acts. The goal in setting the lineup is to have a good mix of distinct performances, so that audiences aren’t just watching lip-synch performances and piano players, Thomson said. Past years have seen a lineup including a dad’s group performing a “Flashdance” routine and a barbershop musical group.

“You get to where there’s certain faces you see all the time in our children’s theater. But you get to that ‘Cowabunga,’ and it’s all these new faces that you would’ve never thought you’d see. It’s a fun night to see the talent we have in the valley,” Thomson said.

The season will wrap on April 30 with the free BPCT Spring Concert at Bethany Lutheran Church. The show typically involves a jazz band, two different choirs, and song and dance.

All told, the season is similar to past years, but Thomson said there could be some changes coming to the Bigfork Playhouse Children’s Theatre in the future. Nothing is official at this point, but Thomson said that he and the board are starting to contemplate expanding the staff, and looking into the possibility of a new, bigger building that could accommodate growth.

To buy tickets, or for more information, go to bigforksummerplayhouse.com.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.