Mark Clairmont |

BRACEBRIDGE — Andi Stevenson “would do anything for a play.”

Including skipping recesses to go over the script a “millions of times” to master the hundreds of lines in her starring role in Matilda The Musical.

Not bad for a nine-year-old who carries the annual Bracebridge Rotary show with a cast of 30 and as many behind the scenes.

And to do it with an accent that sounds so Sussex.

“I don’t know how I know how to speak British,” says the tiny Huntsville public school student, whose 11-year-old sister Ella, “a really good singer,” is also in the large cast.

Stevenson plays Matilda, a bright boarding school student whose rotten parents pack her off to into the hands of a mean headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

The 1988 Roald Dahl play, of the same name, is a children’s favourite for Matilda’s resiliency from growing up in an dysfunctional family and how she transcends them by her love of books and special telekinetic powers that let her and her classmates overcome obstacles with the help of her loving teacher, Miss Honey, and some other adults.

Matilda The Musical is the Bracebridge Rotary Club’s 43rd annual play, put on each winter.

Ones that Matilda producer Jean Polak became involved with after moving to Bracebridge in 1993. In 1994 she began as an actor. The Rotarian has since been involved in 27 consecutive plays and producing about a dozen in recent years.

So she has seen a lot of kids, with every third year usually being a children’s play.

“The whole point of Rotary is to get people involved,” said Polak.

“It’s a bonus when we get 1,000 people” in the seats over a week’s worth of performances on successive weekends.

This year’s run begins Thursday night with the big Rotary gala

Then it’s Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The next week it’s Thursday and Friday March 5-6 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday March 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adult and seniors; and $25 for youth 18 and under.

There are no discount matinees this year.

Polak says it’s a “wonderful opportunity” for the actors and theatre techs in Muskoka, “to use their talents.”

But it’s not a fundraiser, even if they did “make a ton of money” last year with Mama Mia!

The goal is always to just break even.

And while the booming Muskoka theatre community has provided local audiences with greater theatre productions than ever, it’s also put a strain on the talent pool. With so many shows, the competition for everyone’s time has forced many to pick and choose where and how much time they devote to any one project.

After October auditions, Matilda began weekly rehearsals in November, doubling in the new year and now it’s almost daily leading up to and including the two-week run.

While there’s no shortage of girls and women wanting to audition for acting parts, there’s a dearth of boys and men, laments Polak.

Still, that played no role in this year’s offering, she said.

Stevenson’s “personality, spark and sauciness” won over her auditioners.

“She so full of energy,” said Polak.

A pitch to area directors last summer asked them to submit play proposals they’d like direct.

Earl Sacrey, an actor and the drama teacher at Gravenhurst High School and theatre partner Emma Phillips sold Rotary’s production team headed by Polak, on Matilda.

“He’s very talented,” Polak of Sacrey, who was an assistant director of Rotary’s 2018 play Cabaret.

Phillips is the assistant director and the pair work closely together on a lot with Dragon Fly Theatre productions.

Fran Harvey is the choral director, Neil Barlow the band’s music director and Shannon Morrison directs the choreography.

Sacrey has a lot going on including a stuent play underway at GHS and another with Dragon Fly.

But he said Matilda is “a show I’ve always wanted to do.”


“Because “it’s got a lot going for it. It’s a kids show, in that it involves kids and that’s something Rotary loves to do for the wider community.

“But it’s not saccharine, and it’s not brainless, it’s sort of an edgy smart show.

“It also has a nice draw; it’s a story that people know — there’s been the ’96 film and Roald Dahl novel.

“People enjoy it, but this is a new take on it. So it’s material that people are interested in it without being something they’ve seen in this version necessarily. It’s a nice balance,” he said in a rehearsal interview last Wednesday night.

“It’s a play about revolt. It’s a play about asking questions. And if the adults don’t have good answers, it’s about turning over the system.

“Matilda does that through her brains and through reading. But she definitely incites a revolt.”

Sacrey says the audience “will love her for every minute.

“All of her naughty and mischief is in good fun, as she torments her parents and takes down the villains. A hard step in the right place.”

He says: You have to love someone who comes out of the miasma of a family that she comes out of and comes out OK and comes out wonderful. And that’s a great person, Matilda.

“There’s a lot of twists and turns,” says the director, “that I don’t think we want to really reveal.

“Anyone who knows the film or novel will know that her intelligence takes her to really magical places. She has all these powers and she comes to realize she can impact the world around her in really surprising ways.  And that’s the story of the play. Realizing just how powerful she is.”

Polak agrees, adding that it about “standing up to bullies.”

She said the play gives confidence not only to the actors, like Stevenson sisters who are making their Rotary debuts, but also to other young cast members and children in the audience. It will empower them to overcome obstacles and affect change in their own lives in others who surround them.

Polak says it’s nice to see the kids and adults on stage working together “as equals” as ”peers.”

As for Andi, she says Matilda is “a very interesting character. She has super power of doing stuff with her mind, and I find that very interesting. She loves reading books. I love reading books, so we’re like the same.”

Andi said she read Matilda the novel in Battle of the Books.

“I love this story. It’s one of my favourite Roahl Dahls.”

And what does Andi think about the character Matilda?

“I love everything about her. She’s awesome. She’s probably one of my favourite characters I have played.”

Matilda The Musical is on at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge, Feb. 27 to March 7. Tickets available at the box office.

Click on below to hear an audio interview with star Andi Stevenson and director Earl Sacrey. 

Veteran actor Pru Donaldson rehearses a scene with rising new star Andi Stevenson, who plays Matilda in the 43rd annual Bracebridge Rotary musical, opening Thursday night at a club gala at Rene Caisse Theatre.
Andi and Ella Stevenson are making their acting debuts on the Rotary stage this week.

Email Mark Clairmont at


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