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Draper Journal

Classic children’s story ‘Matilda’ to come alive on Juan Diego’s stage

Oct 01, 2022 06:26PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“Matilda” has a special place in the hearts of those who are behind the scenes of the Juan Diego Catholic High production.

Director Joe Crnich was “blown away” by the production he saw on Broadway in 2014 and choreographer Isabel Keetch grew up watching snippets of the musical on YouTube. Both are fans of Roald Dahl books.

However, those aren’t the only reasons why “Matilda” will be on stage at Juan Diego this fall.

“The music is really fun and it's really a well written show and very magical,” Crnich said. “It’s a really fun show, and we have the people to do it.”

Senior Catelyn Raven will play the character of Matilda and senior Jackson Shadwell will be Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School and Matilda’s main antagonist. About 80 students are expected to be part of the show.

“Matilda,” with its high-energy dance numbers and catchy songs, will be performed at 7 p.m., Nov. 17-19 and again at 2 p.m., Nov. 20 at the school’s stage, 300 E. 11800 South. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or at

Keetch, who joined the Juan Diego faculty last year during the “Freaky Friday” rehearsals, said this year it’s been “great to be able to go in with a fresh eye and my personal choreography and be able to share my perspective of what I believe the characters should look like in ‘Matilda.’ I get the opportunity to put my own flair and to have lots of fun, getting to know the kids and build this world together.”

“Matilda” is on Keetch’s dream list to choreograph.

“It’s a bucket list show for me,” she said. “My mother loved Roald Dahl so I knew all of his stories. When I first heard that ‘Matilda’ had been turned into a musical, I got a hold of the music as fast as I could and just fell in love with it. When I was in high school, we used a song titled, ‘When I Grow Up’ as a senior good-bye song that we performed as an entire theater group as a way to send us off into the world. It became a mantra for me, growing up and moving forward to what I wanted to be as a responsible adult, but still having fun as a kid. I think the magic of Matilda is watching her grow and develop even amongst this awful, abusive home, and yet, she still blossoms and finds people who love her. It's just a wonderful message.”


Keetch, who also teaches dance and yoga at Juan Diego, coaches the dance company and teaches dance at St. John the Baptist Middle School, said she created the choreography so students could have fun with it.

“The kids’ favorite things right now are TikTok and hip hop and they are the most interested in those types of dance forms. I've taken influence from hip hop and simple ideas of TikTok dances and incorporated them into my choreography. The kids are super excited because it's something that they think is really cool and it's totally ‘in’ right now,” she said, adding that this production will be the first time she has actually seen the musical even though she knows the book and movie.

Joining Crnich and Keetch on staff is new music director Alla Keoppel, who also teaches music and directs the schools’ choirs.

Since school began, Juan Diego students, some who have read “Matilda” and watched the movie, not only worked on the choreography, music and learned their parts, they also were rehearsing for the 46th annual high school Shakespearean competition Sept. 29 through Oct. 1 in Cedar City.

At the competition, 14 Juan Diego student-actors planned to compete with their ensemble piece from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” More than 50 students were to compete with their monologues, scenes, dance and in the tech Olympics. They planned to hold a Shakespeare showcase for the community in late September.

While in Cedar City, the students had tickets for several shows including “Sound of Music,” “Clue,” “Macbeth” and “Thurgood.”

Crnich said that in mid-March his students will perform “Macbeth” on their own stage as well as host the region competition that month. State competition is in April back in Cedar City. A competition showcase is planned for the community in May.

In addition to performances and competitions, he said the drama club gets together for socials, activities and viewing parties as well as attending professional theatre shows. Many students are involved in theater classes ranging from beginning to advanced drama, musical theatre, technical theatre and advanced technical theatre.