Summer theater camp participants to present 'Matilda Jr.' at Holmes Theatre this week

Three performances of the kids' musical "Matilda Jr." will be presented at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre this Thursday through Saturday, June 24-26. The summer musical is the culmination of a month-long theater camp hosted by the theater, in partnership with Detroit Lakes Community Education.

Matilda Jr cast.jpg
The 28 cast members of "Matilda Jr." are ready and eager for the community to come see the results of all their hard work over the past month, getting ready to present three live performances at the Historic Holmes Theatre this weekend, June 24-26. Thursday's and Friday's shows will both start at 7 p.m., while Saturday's closing show will be a morning matinee, starting at 11 a.m. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
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The summer theater camp operated jointly by the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community Education, now wrapping up its third year, will culminate in three live performances of the children's musical "Matilda Jr." this Thursday through Friday, June 24-26 on the theater's main stage.

Though this is the third year that the musical is being led by theatrical director Kendra Gilsdorf, music director Nick Larson and choreographer Hope Hansen, it's only the second year that they have been able to hold auditions and rehearsals at the Holmes: Last summer's theater camp musical, "Singin' in the Rain," was staged almost entirely online due to state-mandated COVID-19 safety restrictions.
"Everyone's excited to be back at the Holmes," said Gilsdorf, noting that 2020 pandemic restrictions meant they could only stage excerpts of the show, and they had to hold the performance at the City Park Bandshell rather than on the theater's main stage.

Also, all rehearsals and coaching sessions with Gilsdorf, Larson and Hansen had to be held virtually rather than in person, which meant that much of the experience of being part of a live theater production was lost.

"We only ended up presenting about half the show," said Hansen of last summer's live performance.

This year, by contrast, the kids have been able to rehearse together pretty much daily for the past three weeks, leading up to this week's technical rehearsals. In addition, the directors and choreographer have been able to teach the kids much more about what it means to present a live theater production, from using props, microphones and costumes to lighting and sound effects.


The cast of "Matilda Jr." rehearses their opening number on the stage of the Historic Holmes Theatre on Wednesday, June 16. Three performances of the musical will be presented this week, at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

It's similar to the way the "normal" theater camp was run in 2019, Gilsdorf said, when the production was based on Roald Dahl's children's novel, "James & the Giant Peach." This year, they have turned to one of Dahl's better-known works, "Matilda," which was successfully adapted for both the Broadway stage and movie theaters.

"It's pretty similar to the movie," Larson said, though this version has been shortened to just 60 minutes, making it much more kid-friendly (hence the "Jr." part of the name).

Besides having the same directors and choreographer, there are also quite a few kids who have been part of both the 2019 and 2020 productions — but there are probably just as many participants who have never been on stage before joining this show, Gilsdorf added.

"It's a nice mix of familiar and new faces," said Hansen, adding that the 28 kids in the cast range in age from 5th to 12th grade. "We have the full range (of ages)."

In addition, there have been quite a few volunteers assisting behind the scenes, including parents and members of the Holmes Theatre staff.

"There have been lots of helping hands who made things happen," said Gilsdorf.


"We couldn't have done this show without them," Hansen added.

One new addition this year is the large projection screen at the back of the stage, which will be utilized extensively throughout the show, Gilsdorf said.

"It's such a fun show," said Larson — but at the same time, it has some important underlying themes.

"It's about love and kindness versus wrongful discipline and bullying — that's the heart of the story," Gilsdorf said.

The show's protagonist, Matilda, is a young girl who loves to read books — something that's viewed as very unusual and suspicious by her TV-loving family.

"She's an outcast," said Gilsdorf — so much so, in fact, that she's sent away to school.

"Much of the show is set at the school," Hansen said. "It's about how Miss Trunchbowl (who runs the school Matilda attends) is trying to ruin these kids, and they end up rebelling against her."

"The kids learn to stand up for themselves, and each other," explained Gilsdorf.


"And demand to be treated with kindness and respect," Larson added.

As they enter the final days of preparation for the show, "there's a level of excitement that's really apparent, even more so than in other years," Gilsdorf said.

"It's really special, for all of us," Hansen added.

Cast & Crew

Main Characters:

  • Matilda: Hannah Barberg
  • Mr. Wormwood: Andrew Nunn
  • Mrs. Wormwood: Mara Bestge
  • Agatha Trunchbull: Matthew Morrison
  • Miss Honey: Marian Martin


  • Mrs. Phelps: Lily Sundby
  • Bruce: Abram Steinke
  • Lavender: Linnea Aelony
  • Erica: Jenna DeRemer
  • Tommy: Lucas Lundberg
  • Amanda: Brooke Thomas
  • Alice: Willow Noel
  • Hortensia: KayDee Smith
  • Nigel: Jesse Peterson
  • Escapologist: Jesse Peterson
  • Acrobat: Emma Mitchell
  • Micheal: Elliot Frost
  • Cook: Reagan Badurek
  • Mechanic: Lucas Lundberg
  • Rudolpho: Eric Beaupre
  • Sergei: Reagan Badurek
  • Additional Ensemble (Big Kids/Dads/Mums): Paige Annette, Averi Coley, Ariel Becker, Adelia Hagel, Miriam Hansana, Kendra Nowell, Madeline Reese, Marielle Rufer, Elsa Walter


  • Director: Kendra Gilsdorf
  • Music Director: Nick Larson
  • Choreographer: Hope Hansen
  • Stage Manager: Julia Franco

If you go

What: "Matilda Jr."

When: Thursday, June 24, 7 p.m.; Friday, June 25, 7 p.m.; and Saturday, June 26, 11 a.m.

Where: Historic Holmes Theatre, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students; available for purchase online at or by phone at 218-844-7469.

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