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A story for all ages

‘Matilda The Musical’ comes to the Boston Opera House

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
A story for all ages
The company of “Matilda The Musical” national tour. (Photo: Photo: Joan Marcus)

For actor Esther M. Antoine, performing in “Matilda The Musical” has been an incredible and surreal experience. “I’m very grateful for being in the show. It’s a story about a little girl who dreams of having a better life. And she’s so smart and has a brilliant imagination. Every night I get to see this imagination come to life and enjoy it with my cast members and share it with the audience as well,” said Antoine.

“Matilda The Musical” is based on the book “Matilda” by British writer Roald Dahl, who also wrote the popular children’s novels “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach.” Matilda is the story of a young girl with a vivid imagination who dreams of a better life and decides to take destiny into her own hands.

The New York native, who loves performing, has appeared in the national tours of “Memphis” and “Catch Me If You Can,” and last year appeared in the regional production of “Dreamgirls” at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass.

Antoine, who has dual roles in the musical — she’s a member of the ensemble as well as the understudy for the role of librarian Mrs. Phelps — recently spoke to the Banner about how she came to musical theater and why she loves Matilda.

You’ve performed in Dreamgirls, The Wiz and now this. What is it about musicals that attracts you to these different roles?

Esther M. Antoine: I love the fact that we get to be on the stage every night, and every night even though we’re doing the same show, it’s a different experience. Just to be on that stage and share what we love to do, what I love to do with the audience — I think that’s probably at the top of my list because we get to perform for people who have 9-to-5 jobs. They come in to see a show and sometimes their day might be stressful when they come to see the show. They get to leave a little with their spirits lifted. I just think the show is so exciting because it’s a hilarious show.

Did you dream of performing when you grew up in New York?

EA: I did not graduate with a musical theater degree. I graduated with a computer science degree and after graduating, that was when I realized that my passion was for musical theater. I just wanted to dance and loved to perform, so that’s what I decided to pursue. I originally didn’t think that you could actually make a career out of it but after a while of taking classes, and seeing that it was working and I was starting to book jobs, then I decided to go forward 100% and pursue this as a career, as part of my life. This is pretty much my life. This is all I do.

Can you describe to me a little bit about your character Mrs. Phelps?

EA: Mrs. Phelps is the librarian. As far as how it was described to me is that she loves books and she loves stories. Her being a librarian is pretty much the job that she’s always wanted. She’s pretty much doing exactly what she loves to do. And she gets a nice little treat every time Matilda comes in to the library because she knows she’ll get a story. In a way, Mrs. Phelps is a person who allows Matilda to express herself and to tap into her creative mind, that amazing imagination that she has. And at the same time, Mrs. Phelps has a way of trying to get Matilda to speak a little more, to let her in her life without saying ‘tell me what’s going on at home.’ So, it’s definitely a fun experience playing Mrs. Phelps. It’s surreal. It’s my first time actually playing a lead role. I think that adds to my experience with Matilda. It’s a great show. I love it. If I could do Matilda for the rest of my life, I think I’d be all right with that.