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Four Matildas Walk Into Sardi's...

Accents and homework and gnomes — oh my!

Tori Feinstein, Eliza Holland Madore, Brooklyn Shuck, and Fina Strazza make up the newest foursome of Broadway babies trading off performances in the title role of Matilda The Musical at the Shubert Theatre. Following a matinee performance (with Feinstein playing Matilda), the quartet of 8- to 10-year-olds stormed the fourth floor of Sardi's for a lively conversation about their simultaneous starring turns as Roald Dahl's famous telekinetic bookworm.

Here's what you get when you give four spirited girls a chance to banter about "nearly" British accents and backstage gnomes.

Fina Strazza, Eliza Holland Madore, Tori Feinstein, and Brooklyn Shuck are the newest tykes to share the role of Matilda in Matilda The Musical at Broadway's Shubert Theatre.
(© David Gordon)

What did each of you sing for your Matilda auditions?
Tori: There was a song called "High Hopes" that I sang. It's from A Hole in the Head. I have a voice teacher that taught it to me.

Brooklyn: My song was "I Know It's Today" from Shrek. I have a couple voice teachers who teach me songs and I picked that one for my audition.

Eliza: My dad is one of her teachers. I sang a song that my dad wrote called "My Voice." It was written before I was born.

Fina: My song was "Broadway Baby." My mother taught it to me. She's a professional singer and she used to act before I was born.

What is the most difficult part of playing Matilda on Broadway?
Tori: I think that the hardest part is probably school because you have to miss a lot of school in order to be Matilda.

Brooklyn: For me it's mostly learning lines and kind of being in the moment. I have to be really focused.

Eliza: The hardest part of the show for me is being able to not get too nervous or riled up before each show I do. Because I get nervous really easily.

Fina: I think it's probably school too because I have extra homework I couldn't complete the night before because I had a show.

Eliza: Another thing that I forgot to mention is that sleeping schedules is hard. If they schedule me for a Wednesday-night show or any other night show, and I have school the next morning, it gets really hard.

You all have to perform with British accents.
Eliza: Nearly British.

Fina: We say our "r"s but we say all the British sounds.

Eliza Holland Madore, Brooklyn Schuck, Fina Strazza, and Tori Feinstein as Matilda.
(© Joan Marcus)

Are there any lines that are especially hard to say in your "nearly" British accents?
All: Yes!

Tori: I'm bad at tongue twisters so that's one of the hardest things. There's one line that goes, "I was reading Dostoyevsky and I just thought it would be better to read it in the language it was written in."

Brooklyn: For me, sometimes it's the times tables. Because your tongue's moving and it's not moving and it's crazy. Also, another one with a bunch of crazy words is, "Yes, the audience gasped so loud that the pulsing aeroplane caught it on its instrumentation and reported it as an atmospheric phenomenon."

Eliza: There's one that is pretty tricky that goes, "And so they prepared themselves for the most dangerous feat that had ever been performed. The great escape artist had to escape from the cage, lean out, catch his wife with one hand, grab a fire extinguisher with the other, and put out the flames on her specially designed dress within twelve seconds before they reached the dynamite and blew his wife's — HEAD OFF!" "Extinguisher" is the hardest word.

Fina: My hardest line is also the times tables because sometimes you go too fast so you get the wrong answer. It's hard to get the right speed because you're always thinking about what to say.

If you had to trade roles with someone in the cast, who would it be?
Tori: I love my role. But if I had to trade roles with somebody, it would probably be Trunchbull.

Brooklyn: I love being Matilda because that's my dream role. But if I had to, I think I would pick Mrs. Wormwood. All those flips and dancing — I'd like to try it.

Eliza: I am torn between two characters — Michael and Rudolpho. Michael gets to lay around and be like, "Michael!" And Rudolpho is really dance-y. And he does this giant split trick.

Fina: I think I would want to be Amanda Thripp.

Because she gets swung around by her hair?
Fina: Yes.

Brooklyn: And she gets to go on swings and vault.

What do you all do backstage when you're on standby and not performing?
Eliza: Sometimes we're in "Chokey," which is tutoring, and sometimes — rarely ever — we just hang around backstage. We draw pictures, watch movies, we can listen to the show.

Brooklyn: There's also this girl in the show who has a quick change and sometimes I do her quick change.

Eliza: You do?

Brooklyn: Yeah. And so does Fina.

Fina: When I'm on standby, I'm either in Chokey or I do my homework on my own...And I always come out of the theater with something that's made out of paper. I made a karaoke machine out of paper.

Eliza: Did you start the whole gnome thing?

Fina: No, not the whole gnome thing. It had already started and then I tricked people that I was the gnome.

Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull in the Broadway cast of Matilda.
(© Joan Marcus)

What is "the gnome thing"?
Eliza: There's this giant creepy gnome that we have in the theater and one day Grace Capeless, who plays Lavender, noticed Oh, the gnome's not there anymore. Hm, I wonder why. And then it turned into this whole big commotion on gnome things. Someone in the cast or crew took the gnome and hid it and they hid all of these little gnomes and Snow Whites all around the theater and we have to find them. There are sixteen gnomes and Snow Whites altogether.

Fina: One for each child in the play.

Eliza: And we have to find all of them and return them to a special spot and once we have all of them we get the gnome back. And we actually did get the gnome back but then someone took it again.

Brooklyn: We still don't know who it is.

Tori: I think it's Christopher [Sieber, who plays Miss Trunchbull].

Who, out of the four of you, do you all think is the most like Matilda?
Eliza: Me.

Brooklyn: I'm not sure. I think we all are really smart and I think we're kind. I think we're all a lot like Matilda actually. I don't think that there's one of us who's more like Matilda than the others.

Fina: I do love school and books, but one of these three might be more like Matilda.

Tori: I think we're all a lot like Matilda. We're all really creative.

Eliza: There's only one thing that we don't have in common with Matilda.

What's that?
Eliza: Superpowers! — I wish.

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