Becoming Miss Trunchbull

Actor describes ‘Matilda’ role as delightfully villainous

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Having to transform himself into the mean, bullying school headmistress Miss Trunchbull in the national tour of “Matilda the Musical” has given David Abeles a new respect for women.

“There are things that I’ve never had to think about, from wearing skirts to the size of my bosom,” he said. “Absolutely 1,000 percent has given me a greater appreciation of what women have to go through.”

But the transformation is well worth it to Abeles, who has played the role for about a month now, as he will when the tour comes to Greenville on Tuesday, Feb. 2 for a nine-show run.

“The role is deliciously villainous,” he said in a phone interview during a recent tour stop in North Carolina. “It’s a dream to do. You can really disappear in the role. I like to think about what motivates her to act like she does. What happened in her past? How did she turn into this?”

Winner of 50 international awards including four Tony Awards and a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards, “Matilda the Musical” tells the story of an extraordinary girl who dreams of a better life. The musical is based on Roald Dahl’s book. It was also made into a 1996 film.

Armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, Matilda takes a stand against her neglectful parents and Abeles’ character.

Once he puts on the full face of makeup – “beautifully ugly makeup” in his words – and puts on the massive fake breasts, wig and costume, Abeles said he feels transformed into the mean old headmistress.

“It’s a strange thing but once I can see her, I know what to do to be her,” he said. “Miss Trunchbull is deliciously cruel. I basically spend my time screaming at a lot of children and put-upon teachers.”

The show will appeal to adults as well as children.

“It is quintessentially Roald Dahl. It’s not saccharin. Dahl has a unique voice,” he said. “It’s not a show just for kids. The theme of changing one’s destiny is relatable for people at any age.”


5 FACTS

 

1. At 4 feet 5 inches tall, Matilda Wormwood is the smallest leading lady on Broadway

2. Miss Honey and Matilda enjoy real cups of hot tea on stage during the song “My House,” complete with milk and a biscuit

3. Quentin Blake, widely known for illustrating Roald Dahl’s books, designed the Crunchem Hall School badge featured on the children’s blazers.

4. Around 28,000 pieces of confetti are used per performance. That equals almost 12 million pieces per year

5. The blackboard moves 15.5 miles over the course of the year at a top speed of 1.5 mph.


SO YOU KNOW:

What: “Matilda the Musical”

Where: Peace Center

When: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 5, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 7, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25 to $85

Information: 467-3000 or peacecenter.org

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