By MIKE CHAIKEN
The title character of the stage musical, “Matilda,” based on the Roald Dahl novel, discovers she has a super power.
The young child has the gift of telekinesis.
“That’s a lot of responsibility,” said Danny Tieger, one of the actors on the national tour coming to The Bushnell starting next Tuesday.
And it’s a superpower, Danny said he would not wish upon himself.
“I’m not personally equipped to handle the amount of responsibility Matilda handles,” said Danny.
Instead, if he had to have a superpower, Danny said he would prefer to have the ability to fly. As an actor, it’s a power any participant in the world of theater would love to have—especially after riding by bus to 27 cities over the past year as he has in this stage show.
Imagine, he said, the sight of “12 children and 20 adults flying theater to theater.”
When “Matilda” flies into Connecticut next week, it is a homecoming for Danny.
“I’m a West Hartford kid,” said Danny, having graduated from the Watkinson School next door to the University of Hartford.
“I’m so excited,” said Danny about his arrival home and performing in Hartford. “I remember going to the Bushnell in Connecticut.”
This will be the first time Danny is performing in his home state as a part of a national tour, Danny said. His previous performing experiences in Connecticut had been limited to high school productions and as a cast member of Hartford Children’s Theater.
But, Danny said his theater aspirations were fed back in Connecticut. Danny said he loved to sing as a child. He took film classes over at nearby U. of H. (where his parents were alums) as a high school senior. He also always went over to the U. of H. to catch the live musical concerts staged there by students.
And not only did he see plenty of shows at The Bushnell, Danny said he attended performances at the Shubert in New Haven and Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. “I saw a ton of amazing theater in Connecticut when I was growing up.”
And Watkinson, from which he graduated in 2008, provided Danny with “an amazing arts education.” Danny was part of the creative arts program at Watkinson. “They took us all over the state (to see the arts),” said Danny.
“I left Connecticut with a pretty established sense that theater was my passion,” said Danny.
From Connecticut, Danny said he went off to Skidmore College in upstate New York where he studied theater, graduating in 2011. And then with a “wish and a prayer,” Danny set off for Los Angeles to focus on other acting ambitions. Theater was still his passion but he figured that avenue would be waiting for him somewhere down the road.
However, theater did come calling his name. And after eight years away from Connecticut, Danny finally gets to return home to show off his theater chops.
In “Matilda,” Danny plays the role of Michael Wormwood, the older brother of the title character.
“I’m all the worst parts of what a kid can be,” said Danny, describing Michael as a “vidiot” who is always in front of the television, “and that’s the only parenting he has.” Additionally, Michael—and Matilda— has the “two loudest, abrasive, and unsupportive parents.”
And Matilda, who is performed by three actresses in the tour (Sarah McKinley Austin, Lily Brooks O’Briant, and Savannah Grace Elmer)— “rises out of this scenario with a pre-existing moral compass.”
The show provides a lesson for kids, Danny said. “There will be people older than you, louder than you, who will tell you what’s right… But you have to see it for yourself.”
The author of “Matilda,” Roald Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach”) always “puts the truth into the mouths of a child…”
Danny loves how the creators of “Matilda” — Dennis Kelly, who wrote the book for the show, and Tim Minchine, who wrote the music and lyrics—have transformed the book into a stage musical. Minchin has created a “beautiful score” and there are “so many brilliant lyrics.” And Kelly as created “so many brilliant words and so many wonderful sentences.”
“It’s a show that requires an attentive and thoughtful audience,” said Danny, as they are put on the same page as Matilda.
“In musicals, we are used to things being so big,” said Danny, “with not a lot of subtlety.”
But Matilda is written around a good deal of context “around the words of a child,” said Danny.
“It’s a show that stays honest to the core,” said Danny. “And it asks so much from the audience.”
“This is a show where you really get feedback… from kids and adults,” said Danny. There are always cheers and outbursts from the audience, he said.
“It’s such an incredible show,” said Danny. “I’m proud to be part of it.”
Performances of “Matilda” at The Bushnell are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Ticket prices start at $25.50. Tickets are available online at www.bushnell.org, by phone at (860)987-5900, or at The Bushnell box office, 166 Capitol Ave. Hartford.