The stage is filled with books.
There are oversize wooden books acting as stairs, columns made to look like stacks of books that have been lit from inside and the pit and stage are dressed with hundreds of books that Purdue University Fort Wayne's Helmke Library was taking out of circulation.
It's a good thing the title character is an avid reader as Civic Theatre and Youtheatre team up to present “Matilda,” opening Saturday.
Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, the musical enters the world of the title character, a young girl who is treated poorly by some of the adults in her life including her parents and headmistress, Mrs. Trunchbull.
“I think 'Matilda' is all about the power of imagination and creativity,” director Christopher J. Murphy says.
So the girl at the heart of the story works to create a better life for herself using the only thing she has: a powerful mind with imagination and a thirst for knowledge.
Murphy says audiences can enjoy this show the same way they might enjoy “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” also based on a Dahl novel.
“All of Roald Dahl's books (have) that same quality of exploring childhood but never shying away from the dark corners of it,” he says.
The cast has more than 30 people, including Alivia Wheeler and Merritt Lloyd alternating performances in the title role.
The director credits both young actresses with being “terrific in totally different ways.” One brings more vulnerability to the role, while the other is a bit more precocious. So should the audience see the show twice?
“They are both terrifically talented kids and I would never tell anyone to shy away from buying a second ticket to the show,” Murphy says with a laugh. Either way, the show is subversive and funny for adults, and colorful and fun for younger members of the audience.
Murphy, who is also assistant director of Youtheatre, says his favorite thing about theater is taking people with varied talents and getting them together to create something that they couldn't do individually.
“I think this is a great example of that,” he says, because this collaboration combines Civic's talented artistic staff with Youtheatre's understanding of how to get performances out of children.
If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 21, 22, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 23 and March 1; limited seating remains for some performances
Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.
Admission: $33 adults, $28 seniors, $20 ages 23 and younger
Note on parking: The price of event parking in the lot adjacent to the Arts United Center has increased from $3 to $5.