Magic/majik/(noun): an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from an otherworldly source.

The allure of magic is as timeless and strong today as it was millennia ago when Dedi performed the first magic acts in ancient Egypt in 2700 B.C.

Whether it’s having your cards read, your palm decoded, or watching a rabbit being pulled out of a hat, we mortals long for assistance with a mythical origin. We yearn for a touch of the supernatural through an event that cannot be explained by conventional reasoning.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda not only explores the wondrous powers of magic, but also speaks volumes about the innate perseverance of the human spirit, learning, kindness, and the desire (and oftentimes, the ability) to change our own destiny.

Matilda the Musical, Jr. opens Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 12 at the Athens Theatre, 124 N. Florida Ave. in Downtown DeLand.

TRUNCHBULL TRIED TO INTIMIDATE EVERYONE IN HER PATH, BUT MISS HONEY STOOD HER GROUND.
PHOTOS COURTESY STUDIO CREATIVE GROUP

As the younger of Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood’s two children, Matilda knows she is not like the rest of her TV-obsessed, merrily mediocre family. Matilda takes on tons of tomes, and solves polynomial, quadratic and trigonometric equations with ease. She can readily discuss the pieces of radioimmunoelectrophoresis.

Her home life is deplorable, thanks to her bingo-consumed, coiffure-crazed mother and her morally devoid, suspicious-sedan-hocking swindler of a father.

When Matilda is finally “allowed” to go to school, she is faced with Agatha Trunchbull, a dictator headmistress who embraces children’s education as an opportunity for tyrannical terror of Olympic proportions — quite literally. However, Matilda perseveres.

Although attending a school run by Miss Trunchbull is nightmarish, Matilda encounters the compassion and sweetness of a teacher true to her name, Miss Honey. Against all odds, Matilda bravely and unflinchingly forges a remarkable path toward true happiness. Eventually, through strife, Matilda even discovers and harnesses the powers of enchantment buried deep within her brilliant mind.

Lorelei Cook, who stars as Matilda, has previously performed at Theater South, the Halifax Repertory Theatre and the Children’s Music Theater Workshop. Her prior credits include Matilda Jr., where she played the role of Lavender, Spectacular! Spectacular!, Lights of Jingle Bell Hill, Frozen Jr., Seussical the Musical Jr. and The Little Mermaid Jr.

The role of kid-hating and despicably despicable Agatha Trunchbull is played by Farentino Lennox, who previously wowed in the roles of Aladdin in Aladdin, Emmett in Legally Blonde, Broadway Melody Host Singing in the Rain Jr., and many more. The endearing and incredibly lovable Miss Honey is played by Gracie Holland, whose previous credits include Yvette in Clue, Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain Jr., and Teen Fiona and Peter Pan in Shrek TYA.

This spellbinding production is headed by Allison McKinney Maxwell in her Athens directorial debut. Her previous credits include choreography for Athens Theatre shows such as Shrek, Mamma Mia, and this past holiday’s smash hit, Scrooge, the Musical (the most attended show in the theater’s history!). She has also served as choreographer for numerous other shows across the Southeast.

Lyndsay Fuller Michalek choreographed this show’s dazzling, foot-stomping, spirited divinations of dance. In 2008, Michalek opened Preps Dance School & Co. There she produced and directed 18 theater productions, received 17 choreography awards, and held three national titles, before bringing her magical talent to the Athens Theatre Company.

Matilda, Jr.’s revolt-rousing anthems are directed by the magisterial hands of Tori Rathbun, whose past credits include Shrek TYA, Seussical, Jr., White Christmas, Urinetown, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Fantasticks, and You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow.

Matilda and her fellow students will storm the stage for opening night at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, which will feature our traditional champagne (or sparkling juice) toast, enhanced with a bit of pixie dust, of course.

With performances running through Sunday, Feb. 12, the Athens Theatre encourages you to welcome in the new year with this heartwarming, fantastically fun, melodious musical!

Get ready to cheer for the underdog, and perhaps discover your inner magician. As Matilda says, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy, it’s unbelievable!”

A special American Sign Language/English-interpreted performance will be Friday, Feb. 10.

Tickets cost $32 for preferred reserved seating (rows A-F orchestra, and CC-DD center balcony); $27 for adults; $25 for senior citizens; $12 for students/children; and $23 per person for groups of eight or more. A $4-per-ticket processing charge will be added to each purchase.

All tickets and information are available online at the Athens Theatre website (www.AthensDeLand.com), or by calling the box office at 386-736-1500. Box-office hours are 1-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 1 1/2 hours before live performances.

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