Spend a few moments on the phone with Gabby Beredo, and you forget you’re chatting with an All Saints fifth grader; you have to stop yourself from inviting her to Happy Hour.
She’s a Bayonne native who found herself footloose and fancy free the summer after second grade. Her mother’s suggestion that she go to The Theater Group at All Saints Catholic Academy had far-reaching consequences.
“I loved it right away,” Gabby tells me from her hotel room in Orlando, the 15th stop on the tour of the Broadway hit musical Matilda that started in January, and ended this June.
What’s to love? Just about everything for the kid who landed the plum role of Lavender, Matilda’s best friend.
“I like getting to work with other actors,” Gabby says, “and getting to see their way of acting, and I really love the singing and dancing part.”
When Gabby tells me she’s shy, I find it hard to believe. “I was shy when I first came to the theater group,” she says. “But going to the theater group opened my shell.”
Auditions for Matilda took place in New York City. “They made us do songs, dances, and monologues,” she says. “The girls did a Lavender monologue, and the boys did a Bruce monologue.
“I was nervous but also excited at the same time,” Gabby recalls. “I had friends with me who also did acting, and they helped me feel more relaxed.”
Matilda the Musical debuted in England in 2010 and premiered on Broadway in 2013, earning 13 Tony Award nominations and rave reviews from the New York Times. In a nutshell, Matilda tells the story of a kid who is bullied, has horrible parents, and goes to a horrible school. But she has tremendous inner strength and a will to survive.
After Gabby’s audition, the auditioners told her “great job.” At first Gabby didn’t know what that meant. “I didn’t know if it was good, or if they were trying to tell me I was OK. I didn’t know what it meant in audition life. But when I started doing a lot of auditions, ‘good job’ means ‘really good.’”
Gabby “was really fighting for Lavender. I liked her personality. She likes to have fun. She’s quirky, very mischievous. She gets excited a lot and is very happy.”
Gabby also loves dressing the part. “The costumes are so much fun to wear, especially the ballerina tutu, a big pink tutu with feathers everywhere. It’s so much fun.”
One thing that wasn’t much fun was getting injured, but it was a learning experience. “It was during rehearsal,” she relates, “and I had to stand on a desk. I slipped and hit my mouth, and blood was gushing. It taught me a lesson—watch where you’re going. You have to be very careful. Everything is moving around you, people are going places. You have to be aware of your surroundings.”
After Gabby’s audition, the auditioners told her “great job”
Gabby has her own take on what the show is about: “It’s about a little girl fighting for what she thinks is right. She has a very mean headmistress who thinks Matilda is a little maggot, and a teacher who becomes Matilda’s support. Together, Matilda and her teacher, Miss Honey, fight for what’s right against the headmistress.”
It sounded to me as if the play was relevant in today’s world.
“Yes it is,” Gabby says. “You have to approach the right people to help you fight for what’s right. There are many things to fight for, children’s education. All children should have the right to go to school, so they can have a good life, go to college, get a job, and make a family.”
Speaking of school, how does a kid on the road for six months go to school?
“I’m missing school,” she says, “but I’m still enrolled at All Saints, which sends work to my tutors on location.” Her favorite subject is science, and especially astronomy. “I love the constellations,” she says.
Her favorite city so far has been Orlando. “The audience is amazing,” she says. “It’s a great city and beautiful.” But wait, here’s the real reason: “I really loved going to the Harry Potter Museum.”
Gabby’s favorite actor is Kristen Chenoweth. “She was hilarious in Wicked,” Gabby says. “I was inspired by her when I watched the show. I wanted to be on Broadway. This is what I want to do. Me and Mom and Dad watched more Broadway shows, and now I kind of want to be in Wicked.”
She’s also thinking she might want to audition for the tour of the Broadway musical School of Rock. “I might go into film and TV shows, that might be fun,” she says, “but if I don’t continue acting, I’d like to open a talent agency when I’m older—represent kids and send them on auditions and find teachers to work with.”
Gabby feels lucky that she has friends back home who support her. “I really love being on the road,” she says, “but it’s really hard being away from home. A hotel room isn’t really my kind of place. It doesn’t feel like home. I want to be in my bedroom.”
The experience has deepened her appreciation of her hometown: “Traveling America makes me feel, wow, Bayonne is a really small, nice town. I have so many friends and family there, and it’s on a peninsula. I love Bayonne.”—Kate Rounds