Inside the wonderful world of the wicked Wormwoods

Cassie Silva and Quinn Mattfeld in 'Matilda The Musical.'
Actors Cassie Silva and Quinn Mattfeld get to scream at children for two hours in ‘Matilda The Musical.’ ‘It’s really fun,’ says Silva.

For the record, Quinn Mattfeld and Cassie Silva adore children. Some of their best friends … have them. But still, Silva says, “It’s pretty rad” to get to play pretty much the most comically, horribly oblivious parents that pen ever put to paper.

“Our jobs are fun because we get to just scream at children all day. That’s pretty much all Cassie and I do … on-stage,” said Mattfeld, who teams with Silva to play the ghastly Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1988 favorite, Matilda. The first national touring production of Matilda The Musical is visiting Denver through Sept. 20.

To be fair, Mattfeld emphasized … “on-stage.”

“And then off-stage, we laugh and giggle with them and we have super-fun,” he added. “It’s a fun, complicated relationship.”

Dahl is beloved – and in some parts, even banned – because he dared to depict mean parents and other tyrannical adults in his dark and delicious stories for children. The Wormwoods are terrible parents who come off as absurdly comic in their boorishness because they are too self-absorbed and clueless to realize that they have been blessed with the greatest of gifts – a sweet and highly intelligent 5-year-old who (by necessity) teaches herself to read. Matilda’s reward is being abandoned to the care of the dangerously cruel Head Mistress, Miss Trunchbull.

“I really feel the need here to say that I can’t get enough of children,” Silva said with a laugh. “And it’s both awesome and difficult to play Mrs. Wormwood because of that. But yeah … it’s really fun.”

Quinn Mattfeld and Cassie Silva play the Wormwoods in 'Matilda The Musical.'The reason it’s fun, Mattfeld said – and not so threatening to adults in the audience – “is because these parents’ deficiencies could not be more visible. They could not be more transparent as awful people. There is this great Roald Dahl sense that the adults are in power, but the Wormwoods realize at some point that they actually have no power. And so they are constantly trying to compensate for that.

“Mr. Wormwood is constantly trying to tell everyone how smart he is, when it couldn’t be clearer that he is dumb as a stump.”

Mattfeld says in performance, Matilda The Musical is a little bit like a horror movie with comedy in it.

“You need to be a little bit scared in order for there to be a release when you realize that this person is not capable of actually doing any damage, other than to themselves,” he said.

The villainous Miss Trunchbull, he admits, is a bit of an exception. “There is always the potential that she could really do some damage to the children, and she does,” Mattfeld said. “But in a very fun, theatrical way. Like, you know … throwing children off the stage.”

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE ACTOR WHO PLAYS MISS TRUNCHBULL

But it’s important to the actors, Silva said, that the parents be seen as real, or else they lose all impact. “I don’t look at Mrs. Wormwood the way other people do,” she said. “Our job as actors is to breathe life and empathy into these creatures. The Wormwoods are these big, giant, cartoon-esque people, but they still are real, heartfelt humans in the world. And Mrs. Wormwood especially. To understand her is heartbreaking.”

But Silva, who spent two high-school years living in Longmont and graduated from Front Range Academy in Broomfield, loves that the stage musical is so true to the dark and ghoulish tone of the Dahl books.

“That’s so important because Roald Dahl is such an iconic writer for creating these fanciful, extreme worlds, and our audiences expect that when they come to our show,” she said. “Our production is true to that world right down to our beautiful costumes and sets. They are very honest to the Quentin Blake illustrations from the book. And so you really are able to lose yourself in the world.

“It also doesn’t hurt that we have 14 incredibly talented and focused children. This no lack of adorability in our show.”

Why, those kids are so freaking adorable, Mattfeld said, “they are the Cerberus of adorable.”

But another thing Silva really appreciates, she said, “is that our show was written with adults in mind. It truly is good for all ages.”

While there is much on-stage magic on display, Mattfeld says the real magic of Matilda is the story itself.

“If there is any real magic in this world, it is storytelling,” he said. “And rather than sitting kids down in front of a screen, which literally limits their imagination to the size of their television or a movie screen, putting them in front of live people telling a story is both metaphorically and actually magical.”

Silva said the message of Matilda to children is that you can change your destiny.

“It’s extremely empowering that we have this young hero who goes through all this scary stuff but then finds a way to take power over her own life and play the cards as she sees fit,” she said. “Taking control of your life is scary for anyone at any age, all by itself.  Those are life lessons we go through every day. In the end, it comes out in a positive way. So I think it’s worth being scared out of your pantaloons along the way.”

At the end of the interview, the actors were offered the opportunity to thank someone from their own childhoods for inspiring their performances in Matilda The Musical. But unlike their characters, they were too smart to take the bait.

“I am so glad I didn’t have anyone in my life who resembles Mr. Wormwood in any way, shape or form,” Mattfeld said with a laugh. “I would like to thank my parents for not letting me be around people like Mr. Wormwood or Ms. Trunchbull.

“But if you really think about it – and I try not to – Wormwood is a sad, sad dude. I really do think that at the end of the play, he realizes that he backed the wrong pony. There was real value to this girl that he just didn’t see. And by the time he realizes that he actually wants to get to know this person and have her be around, it’s too late. She’s already gone. Which is really sad. I have a lot of sympathy for these dumb, dumb characters.”

Matilda The Musical
: Ticket information in Denver

Performing Sept. 9-20
At The Buell Theatre
Tickets: 303-893-4100, 800-641-1222 or  BUY ONLINE
Kids Night on Broadway: 6:30 p.m., Sept. 10
Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., Sept. 20

Our previous NewsCenter coverage of Matlida The Musical
Meet the man behind the worst woman in the world
 
Bonus Matilda The Musical coverage:

  • Silva graduated from Front Range Academy in 2006, and credits much of her professional success to her time here working under Lynn Waggoner-Patton at the Rocky Mountain School of Dance and Performing Arts. “Lynn is a goddess. My goodness,” Silva said. “She took me under her wing and she let me compete with her company. She treated me as her own and I owe being a performer to her influence.” Waggoner-Patton now runs The Silhouettes, runner-up on Season 6 of America’s Got Talent. “They do these extravagant, beautiful creations with lights and shadows,” Silva said, “which is no surprise because Lynn is a creative genius. I am so lucky to have trained under her.”
  • Matilda The Musical is in undeniably British show. But despite cast members with names like Bryce Ryness and Quinn Mattfeld, they swear no one in the cast of the national touring production is British. “Percentage-wise, I would say that I am about 95 percent not British,” Mattfeld said. “The other 5 percent is a question mark. It’s like statistical noise. It is funny, though. Working in the theatre, I would say that I do spend most of my time speaking in some form of a British accent.”
  • Mattfeld is playing the role that young Denver actor Gabriel Ebert originated on Broadway – and won a Tony Award for at the age of 26. “Certainly his presence is still felt among the Broadway company, even a year and a half later,” said castmate Bryce Ryness, who plays Miss Trunchbull.
  • Mattfeld has performed several seasons at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which is run by former longtime DCPA Theatre Company member David Ivers, who often employs DCPA actors for the summer. The Theatre Company’s upcoming production of As You Like It features several of Mattfeld’s friends, including Matt Zambrano and Geoffrey Kent. “I love, love, love Denver,” he said. “I have spent a good amount of time there bookending my time at Utah Shakespeare Festival.”
  • Mattfeld was asked to describe Mr. Wormwood’s majestic mustache in two words. His response: “Resplendent. And fantastic.” The rest of the exchange you can read for yourself here:

Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. Wormwood in 'Matilda The Musical.' Quinn Mattfeld: Mr. Wormwood clearly puts a lot of thought into his hair. He says: “In business, a man’s hair is his greatest asset.” So the mustache is an outward symbol of his inward abilities. He clearly has groomed all of this in some sort of topiary fashion in order to reflect how brilliant he is on the inside … even though he’s not.

John Moore: Wait. Does that mean the mustache isn’t real?

Quinn Mattfeld: The mustache is not real.

John Moore: That’s crushing.

Quinn Mattfeld: Nor are the 19 wigs I wear.

John Moore: I was imagining you walking down the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver sporting that mustache.

Quinn Mattfeld: Well, if I were in Seattle I would totally fit in with my cool, ironic mustache. Although it would probably play better in, like, Portland.

John Moore: I do have to say that facial hair like Mr. Wormwood’s is really big in Denver right now for anyone under the age of 30.

Quinn Mattfeld: So I could be on the cover of Denver’s Mustache Enthusiast?

John Moore: Or you could be the lead singer of just about every indie-rock band in town at the moment.

Quinn Mattfeld: Good.

Cassie Silva: Quinn, do you think you could grow it out that long?

Quinn Mattfeld: Oh, yeah.

Cassie Silva: Really? Just in the time we are in Denver?

Quinn Mattfeld: Oh, no. Absolutely not. I tried to grow just my sideburns out because I didn’t want to have to put them on every day, and it just didn’t happen. I don’t have the “follicle fortitude” that Mr. Wormwood has.

John Moore: Well there’s the name of your indie-rock band right there: Follicle Fortitude.

Cassie Silva: What Quinn is saying about hair being one of the greatest assets to a person is extremely true in their household. Mrs. Wormwood has three wigs that she wears at the same time, and they all have names. It’s a whole ordeal. I say that she kind of looks like a poodle. And then she has all this makeup, and multiple pairs of neon fishnets. She just wants so badly to be seen in the world. But she’s not able to see herself or anything around her, for that matter.

Quinn Mattfeld: You put all that stuff on and you go Full Wormwood. As soon as I put all my stuff on, I was like, “OK. I totally get who this guy is.” And let me tell you: Once you go Wormwood, you never go back.

Matilda The Musical.

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