Roanoke Children’s Theatre will introduce a young girl with telekinetic powers named Matilda to the Roanoke Valley this forthcoming holiday season.

The 11-year-old Roanoke nonprofit will produce the regional premiere of musical “Matilda,” based on the 1988 novel for children by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” creator Roald Dahl.

“It’s edgy, it’s fresh, it’s funny,” said RCT artistic director Pat Wilhelms. “There’s great roles in it for adults and kids. The music is hilarious. I think it’ll be a good holiday present for Roanoke.”

The show continues RCT’s tradition of booking seasons with works based on classic children’s literature. “Good literature makes good theater,” Wilhelms said. “Even though it’s theater for younger audiences and their families, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to have a good message and something to remember. We’re always trying to get those stories.”

The theater company launched its RCT4Teens program during the 2010‑11 season, including a play each season since that addresses difficult issues like alcohol abuse, eating disorders or online bullying. More recently RCT has commissioned RCT4Teens plays from Samantha Macher, a graduate of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University — “Babyland” in 2017, about teen pregnancy, and “ILY: Hang Up & Drive” in 2018, about texting and driving.

In 2020, RCT will premiere Macher’s specially commissioned play “The Fakes,” about internet addiction and how to keep vulnerable youth safe from internet predators.

“Kids, the internet is so much a part of our lives now, and they just trust everybody, and assume that anybody who contacts them is cool or could be their friends,” said RCT Development Director Jeanne Bollendorf. “This is really about protecting your own identity, protecting your family’s identity, not telling people where you live, not posting exposing selfies, and things like that, and really understanding that the person on the other end may not be at all who you think it is.”

RCT’s full 2019-20 season will be:

Oct. 3-6: “The Velveteen Rabbit” by James Still and Jimmy Roberts, based on Margery Williams’ beloved tale about a humble, much-used toy that longs to be real.

Dec. 18-22: “Matilda” by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin, based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel.

Feb. 27-28, 2020, with touring performances Feb. 25-March 6, 2020: “The Fakes” by Samantha Macher, part of the RCT4Teens program.

April 10, 2020: “Disney’s Sleeping Beauty,” performed by the children in RCT’s spring break camp.

April 30-May 3, 2020, with touring performances May 5-July 3, 2020: “Jack and the Wonderbeans,” an Appalachian retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” that uses traditional folk music.

On Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., Roanoke Children’s Theatre will hold auditions for “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “Matilda” in Valley View Mall on the first floor by JC Penney. For more information on materials to bring and sheet music to rehearse, call 400-7795, email or visit

In the meantime, RCT has two shows left in its 2018-19 season.

In a continuation of RCT Kids on Stage, as the culmination of the company’s spring break workshop, the children and teens who take part will perform “The Little Mermaid Jr.” on April 19, 7 p.m., and April 20, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., in the Scottish Rite Auditorium, 622 Campbell Ave S.W., in Roanoke. Admission is $10.

From May 3-5, RCT will perform “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” in Jefferson Center’s Shaftman Performance Hall, containing such ditties familiar to television viewers of a certain age as “Conjunction Junction” and “Just a Bill.” Admission is $15 to $25. For more information, call 400-7795 or 345-2550 or visit or

Documentary premiere

Sunday at 5 p.m., the Grandin Theatre will present a new documentary by writer and director Kathryn Beranich, a former producer for WDBJ (Channel 7) and WSLS (Channel 10).

“The Unlikely Story of the Lesbians of First Friday” recounts life for lesbians in Roanoke in the 1980s, an era when safety concerns and fear of losing careers and families often led them to hide their sexuality. During that time, a group formed in Roanoke called “First Friday,” creating events and holding gatherings where attendees could safely be themselves. The movie contains pictures and interviews with the women who took part. Admission is $12.

For more information, call 345-6377, email or visit unlikelystory-lesbians-first-friday.

Mike Allen writes the Arts & Extras column for The Roanoke Times. The beat he covers includes visual art, classical music, opera, theater, dance, literature, museums and other arts and cultural nonprofits, and things even more eclectic.

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