Metro-East Living

St. Louis native comes home to perform in ‘Matilda’

Natalie Wisdom is in the ensemble for “Matilda the Musical” at the Fox Theatre.
Natalie Wisdom is in the ensemble for “Matilda the Musical” at the Fox Theatre. “Matilda the Musical”

For native St. Louisan Natalie Wisdom, appearing in “Matilda the Musical” on the national tour at the Fox Theatre is a dream come true.

Wisdom is part of the ensemble, which opens in St. Louis on Wednesday. She is a swing performer, too, able to step in to female roles when needed.

A fan of Roald Dahl’s works, Wisdom recalled her introduction to “Matilda.”

“It was my favorite book as a kid. My Dad read it to me. I love the story. It holds a special place in my heart,” she said during a phone interview from Dallas, one of the stops on the first national tour, which started in June.

The young and the kind always triumph over the wicked and greedy in Roald Dahl’s novels. The revered Welsh writer penned “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” among many others.

The musical adaptation of “Matilda” brings the whimsy, mischief and heart of the book to the stage. Matilda, who dreams of a better life, is a precocious girl with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind. She dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

“Her parents are not nice to Matilda. She needs someone to be her friend. Her teacher, Miss Honey, and Matilda need each other. Miss Honey appreciates her gifts, and is going to help Matilda,” she said. “It’s an unconventional love story and really heartwarming. I’m so happy I get to be a part of it.”

The darkly comedic musical first appeared in London’s West End in 2011, winning the most Olivier Awards ever given to a musical. The music and lyrics are by Tim Minchin, an Australian comedian, musician and composer.

It opened on Broadway in 2013, winning four Tony Awards for Best Book (Dennis Kelly); Featured Actor (Gabriel Ebert as Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s TV-addicted, used-car salesman father); Scenic Design (Rob Howell); and Lighting Design (Hugh Vanstone).

“It’s a story for all ages. It’s a great family musical, not a kid’s show. It’s got everything — big dance numbers, beautiful ballads, funny characters. You will laugh out loud. There is not a dull moment,” she said. “You will root for Matilda.”

She said the traveling show is as close as possible to the original production, which is still playing in London and New York.

Wisdom has never performed at the Fox before.

“I’m so excited! It has been a dream of mine for a long time,” she said. “I am hearing from friends and family who are coming. It’ll be really cool.”

A 2007 graduate of the Webster University Conservatory, Wisdom performed in both the Broadway production and national tour of “Billy Elliott,” understudying the role of Mum, and was the dance captain.

“I was very lucky. I had a few regional jobs outside New York City. A year after I moved there, I auditioned for “Billy Elliott,” and a year after that, I was cast. It was really exciting. It was a really great experience,” she said.

Both “Billy Elliott” and “Matilda” have youths in their cast.

“I love working with the kids,” she said. “This cast and crew has been wonderful to work with, really a lovely group.”

Wisdom, who grew up in Arnold, was very young when she decided performing was her career goal.

“I saw ‘The Sound of Music,’ and thought, these kids are getting paid to do this? I can’t think of a better job!”

Her parents are both teachers. Her dad was the band director at Windsor High School in Imperial, Mo., and her mom was a civics teacher, but has retired, and is now teaching at Lindenwood University.

“My mom had me in dance classes when I was 3 and 4. She had always wanted to take dance,” she said.

Wisdom was a Muny Kid and Teen, and appeared in “Cinderella,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “The Wizard of Oz” at the Muny. She also acted in community theater.

“I knew what I wanted to do. I did as much theater as I could, and tried to improve so I could pursue a career in theater,” she siad. “My advice to anyone is do everything you can to improve. It’s important to be ready for opportunities.”

"Matilda the Musical"

  • When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21-Nov. 1
  • Where: The Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand, St. Louis
  • Metrotix: 314-534-1111 or Fox Box Office
  • Information: www.fabulousfox.com
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