WNY girl to star in ‘Matilda the Musical’

The Roald Dahl musical will open at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center on March 7

Elle Graper, a ten-year-old resident of West New York, will star as Matilda.
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Elle Graper, a ten-year-old resident of West New York, will star as Matilda.

A 10-year-old West New York girl will soon take the stage to play Matilda at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center. Elle Graper has been cast as Matilda Wormwood in the central Jersey production of ‘Matilda the Musical.’

“Matilda Wormwood is my favorite character,” Elle told The Hudson Reporter. “She has such a great lesson to teach children and adults, that everyone gets to write their own story no matter what life gives you to deal with. Also she is powerful, and isn’t afraid to stand up for things that she knows are right, which is really important.”

Elle fell in love with theater at a Musical Theater camp when she was 4, according to her mother Traci Graper. Just a year later, Elle began working professionally.

Elle currently trains at Shuffles NYC, Broadway Dance Center, and The Professional Performance Prep as well as privately with various teachers. According to Traci, Elle moved to New Jersey last year from their home in Houston to chase her Broadway Dreams.

Elle lives with Cystic Fibrosis. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, it’s a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and, over time, limits the ability to breathe.

Despite her condition, Elle still works hard to achieve her goals of performing on Broadway, having studied vocal, tumbling, acrobatics, ukulele, piano, and much more throughout her life.

Elle played Zuzu Bailey in the world premiere of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Houston Grand Opera prior to moving to the Garden State. She also was in “Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight” at Theater Under the Stars as Little Nanny Tickle.

The role of Matilda is not new to Elle. She played the role back in Houston.

‘Matilda the Musical’

In honor of National Reading Month, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center will host “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” on March 7. It will run for three weekends through March 22.

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center, at 100 Grant Ave, Deal Park just north of Asbury Park, is one of New Jersey’s newest professional theaters, a regional theater on the Jersey Shore that focuses on musicals, original concerts, ballet, film, arts education, and more.

“Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” is a universal story that speaks to adults as well as children. On its surface it’s a magical story that captures the attention of young people, but its themes resonate for today’s world.

Directed and choreographed by Luis Salgado, this is the musical’s first professional production in central Jersey.

“We live in a world that continues to move deeper and deeper into technology, a world that doesn’t value the power of imagination and discovering new worlds within our own minds,” Salgado said. “‘Matilda’ is a fantastic story about community, self-empowerment, and what a young person can aspire to be when inspired by a book.”

Salgado is moved by the character of Matilda herself.

“Her resilience and tenacity matches the tenacity of the humans whose stories I live to tell,” he said.

Elizabeth Ritacco takes the leading role of Miss Honey, Matilda’s sympathetic teacher. Playing Matilda’s never-loving parents Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are seasoned New York actors Stephen Petrovich and Sarah Mae Banning.

“Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” previews on March 6, at 7:30 p.m. All preview seats are $32. Tickets for the show after it opens will range from $38-67.

For more information or to buy tickets visit www.axelrodartscenter.com.

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center, (732) 531-9106, is handicap accessible and provides free parking onsite.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.