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Interview with Brenda Kitchen – On-Set Teacher for Original Broadway Cast of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

As we prepare to open Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, we wanted to take some time to talk to our choreographer, Brenda Kitchen, about her experience working with the original Broadway cast. Brenda is our primary musical theatre choreographer, working with Beginning Musical Theatre, Junior Production Company, Senior Production Company, and our Musical Theatre Company members.

What was your job title and responsibilities?

I worked as the on-set teacher for the original Broadway Children’s Cast of Matilda, The Musical in New York. This means that when the kids couldn’t go to their regular school because of so many rehearsals and shows, they would have school with me. We had school at all hours of the day- whenever we could squeeze it in. We often had school during rehearsals at Ripley-Grier Studios, or New 42nd St Studios, so kids would pop in and out when they could. We also had school with the swings and stand by kids during the shows (swings are kind of like understudies, but they go on regularly for multiple roles). On Broadway, there is always a kid or two  on stand by ready to go on in case someone gets sick or hurt. During the shows, I would have school with whomever was on stand by in a tiny room (that was nicknamed ‘Chokey’) in the basement of the Shubert Theatre on 44th St. This room was in the middle of the underground hallway that was used by the cast to get to the other side of the stage and back of the house. Everyone was so nice and would often stop by to say hi to us… except for The Trunchbull (played by Bertie Carvel). He was known for staying in character for the whole show, even off stage and would never smile or talk to anyone- but one day I got him to smile! Often we would get to go up to the back of the house with the school kids, and watch “School Song”. A few times, the head guardian would take us to the orchestra pit for the song, “Bruce”, which was amazing!

“Julia Roberts came to see the show and brought cupcakes for the kids. This is Ted (Eric) giving me one of the cupcakes from Julia Roberts. The photos above were both taken in the, ‘Chokey’ room where we did school in the theatre.”

How did you come upon the job? What was your initial reaction when you heard you got it?

I worked for a company called On Location Education which sends teachers to work with kids that work in the entertainment industry. I had worked on film and tv sets, but I was thrilled to work on a Broadway show!

Brenda’s students and some other cast members got to do a live chat with an astronaut on the Space Station as a press event.

How did the kids balance work, study, and play when doing so many rehearsals/shows?

The kids (and their families) worked really hard and made huge sacrifices to try to balance their work/study/play to be in a Broadway show. Even once the show opened, they were still rehearsing to keep everything sharp. They also had so many rehearsals for all extra things they performed at, like the Tony awards, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and other talk shows, or press events. These kids were very disciplined and still took regular dance, voice, and acting classes to stay at the top of their game. Many of their families moved to New York from other states and even countries when their kid got cast in a Broadway show. Several also lived in the Tri-state area and would have to take the train for hours each day just to get to there. Their parents would take them to the theatre and then just hang out for hours in NY to wait for them. They often wouldn’t get home until after midnight, and then do it all again the next day. They often had to study on the train. These kids and families were so dedicated!

What was the energy like on opening night?

Opening night of Matilda on Broadway was so amazing! We ate at Sardi’s before the show. (Sardi’s is the famous restaurant that has all the charcuteries of Broadway stars.) The theatre was packed and there were so many celebrities there! The show started 20 minutes late on opening night, but you could feel the excitement and energy in the theatre! This is the first time I saw the show on stage, and it was amazing!!! After the show there was a huge opening night party, and it was fun to see all my kids dressed up and letting loose! (But the next day during our school breaks, they all took naps!)

Opening night party for Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, which Brenda attended.
The kids after opening night!

What was your favorite part of the experience?

It’s hard to pinpoint just one part of the experience that was my favorite… I loved it all! From riding the train into the City, to going in the famous gold stage door of the Shubert, being with my kids, working in a Broadway theatre… I just felt so lucky and blessed to be a small part of it. It is all just so magical! It is now my claim to fame!

One of the Matildas, Sophia Gennusa, and Brenda share a birthday.

How has it been watching your original kids grow up?

It has been amazing to watch my original Maggots grow up! Several have done other Broadway shows and I have seen several in movies or tv shows and commercials. Probably the most notable is Milly Shapiro (one of the original Matildas) who starred in the horror film, Hereditary- which I have still not been able to watch, because I don’t like scary movies! I got to see Erica Simone Barnet, who played Amanda and Lavender, in the Mean Girls tour that came through OKC this year. Most of the original Broadway children’s cast are around college age now.

How has it been working as the choreographer with an entirely new set of kids?

It has been a dream to be able to choreograph this show with ArtWorks kids! This show is so special to me and ArtWorks is so special to me; it’s such an honor to be a part of Matilda again!

The cast did a safety check before each show. The swings for, “When I Grow Up” were so big, they flew out over the audience!

What is your favorite number in the show?  Has it changed over the years?

My very favorite number in Matilda has always been, “Revolting Children”. I get so excited when I hear Bruce belt out those first few iconic notes. The music just has an extra energy and excitement to it that you can feel. It gets you so pumped up! I especially love the surprise in the middle of the song!

ArtWorks Academy’s production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical opens Thursday, June 8 and runs through Sunday, June 11. This production features K-12th grade students. There are THREE different casts.  If you are coming to see someone specific, check with them first to find out when they are performing.


Thursday, June 8 at 7:00 pm
Friday, June 9 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, June 10 at 2:00 pm
Saturday, June 10 at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 11 at 2:00 pm
Sunday, June 11 at 7:00 pm


Randall University
3701 S. I-35 Service Rd
Moore, OK 73160


Tickets are $12 for the orchestra section and $10 for the balcony. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at: