Brad Cansler Photography / The title role of Matilda is shared by Libbie Weaver, left, and Anay Philips, who lead a children's ensemble of 15 local kids.
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Julie Van Valkenburg Photo / The scheming Wormwoods (Tripp Ladd, Levi Jones and Lee Preston, from left) exclude Matilda (Libbie Weaver) from their family circle.

It's not easy being a kid. Especially when your parents are crude, TV-addicted, book-bashing scoundrels and your school's heartless headmistress has a fondness for torturing children.

Such is the plight — and plot — of "Matilda," the Tony Award-winning musical that opens the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's 2019-2020 season on Friday, Sept. 20.

Inspired by children's author Roald Dahl, the wonderfully quirky "Matilda" is an exhilarating story about an extraordinary little girl armed with a vivid imagination, a sharp mind and psychokinetic powers, who dares to take a stand and change her destiny.

She's unloved by her cruel parents, but her intelligence and astonishing wit impress her lovable schoolteacher.

The mean headmistress hates children, throws them around the playground and confines them to a chest called The Chokey. But Matilda has courage and cleverness in equal amounts, and could be her schoolmates' saving grace.

Libbie Weaver and Anay Philips share the role of precocious Matilda. The girls will appear in alternating performances.

If you go

* What: “Matilda”

* Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

* When: 8 p.m. Sept. 20-21, 27-28, Oct. 4-5, 11-12; 7 p.m. Sept. 26, Oct. 3 and 10; 2:30 p.m. Sept. 21-22, 28-29, Oct. 5-6, 12-13

* Admission: $11 to $30

* For more information: 423-267-8534

This is literally Anay's Chattanooga stage debut as her family only moved to this city a little more than a month ago from Orlando. But even at 10 years of age, she's no stranger to the stage. Anay, daughter of Cezanne and Jeff Philips, was active in an Orlando community theater group and has appeared in seven shows prior to this.

The home-schooled fifth-grader says she auditioned with the desire to be in another show and was "really excited" to learn she was sharing the title role. She's been preparing to play Matilda by practicing her British accent.

"My sister was in 'The Secret Garden,' and she had to have a British accent for that. She talked British all day long, every day, and I kind of got it from her," Anay says.

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Julie Van Valkenburg Photo / Miss Trunchbull (Jason Russell), the heartless headmistress at Matilda's school, is zealous about dreaming up new ways to torture the children.

But the biggest challenge, she says, has been memorizing all of Matilda's lines — 300 in the first act alone! — and "I also have to talk Russian."

Playwright Dennis Kelly and musician-composer Tim Minchin capture the wit and heart of Dahl's tale set in an English village. Packed with high-energy dance numbers, catchy songs and an empowering message of daring to stand up for what's right, "Matilda" is a joyous girl-power romp.

Guest director Katherine Michelle Tanner, who directed last season's musical hit "Newsies," is also choreographer. Music director is Michael Huseman.

Libbie and Anay lead an energetic cast of 15 children and 11 adults.

Tripp Ladd and Lee Preston play Matilda's unloving parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood. Amanda Medlin is the caring teacher and Greer Caldwell a kind librarian, Matilda's allies at school. Jason Russell is the sadistic Miss Trunchbull.

The rest of the cast includes Laine Caldwell, Charlie Clevenger, Aria Cochran, Erin Eames, Roxanne Gibson, Cole Hayes, Tytus Hayes, Larry Hubbard, Caleigh Jackson, Keath Jackson Jr., Levi Jones, Aleah Larson, Ken LeBeau, Hayley Lewis, Alex Loyd, Carter McKissick, Caelen Philips, Ripken Russell and Julie Wright.

For tickets or more information: http://




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