Broadway-tour veteran plays Miss Honey in Vista company’s regional premiere of show based on Roald Dahl novel
In a number from Act 2 of “Matilda the Musical,” the show’s ensemble of kids sing: “And when I grow up, I will eat sweets every day on the way to work, and I will go to bed late every night.”
Someday, those youngsters will be thrilled to discover that adulthood is, in fact, just like that.
But as kid-dominated as “Matilda” might be — it’s named for the reading-obsessed grade-schooler at the story’s center, after all — there are actual adults in the musical, too.
And virtually the only non-insufferable one, in this stage adaptation of the funny and fantastical Roald Dahl novel, is Miss Honey, the schoolteacher who recognizes Matilda’s extraordinary gifts and helps the girl stand up for herself.
In Moonlight Stage Productions’ area premiere of the 2013 Broadway musical, which opens next week, Ashley Fox Linton plays Miss Honey. The role and the show represent a significant homecoming (not to mention a Moonlight debut) for the wide-ranging actor, who was raised in Del Mar and now resides in Los Angeles.
Linton, who lived in New York for nine years before heading to L.A., has crisscrossed the country with the Broadway tours of “Wicked” and “Les Misérables,” and also has taken on prime roles in regional productions of shows from “Sunset Boulevard” to “Young Frankenstein.”
But she hasn’t appeared locally since Cygnet Theatre’s 2010 production of “Sweeney Todd,” so the proud alumna of San Diego Junior Theatre is happy to be back in town, and playing a character she says she already has grown to love.
From the start, Miss Honey “was really clear to me,” Linton says. “I really like her because she’s never been able to stand up for herself, but she loves the kids so much that she can so easily stand up for them. I love that quality.
“Matilda is a genius and she has these superpowers, but that’s sort of a side effect of her kindness. And I think Miss Honey’s superpowers come out of how much she loves the kids. Because suddenly she has this courage.”
As in Dahl’s story, Matilda (played at Moonlight by the young newcomer Charity Rose) lives under the thumb of her cruel and self-centered parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (Kevin Hafso-Koppman and Kristina Miller-Weston).
And like her schoolmates, Matilda must endure the suffering inflicted by their sadistic headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Randall Hickman).
“I think she’s so inspiring because she’s naturally strong,” Linton says of Matilda. As an actress, she adds, Charity “has exactly the right kind of sweet spirit and spunk that character needs.”
“Matilda,” which began life on the British stage, premiered on Broadway in 2013 and ran nearly four years, earning four Tony Award nominations but losing the best-musical prize to the Old Globe-connected “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” in a bit of an upset.
Linton has actually never seen “Matilda”; the show’s Broadway staging had a national tour (including a 2017 visit to San Diego), but the piece has only recently begun to get regional productions.
So director and Moonlight returnee Jamie Torcellini and his company are “starting from scratch and building it as if it has never happened before,” Linton says.
“Jamie is creating so many neat little moments that are his own ideas. I love that this is definitely going to be our own version of ‘Matilda.’”
‘Matilda the Musical’
When: Opens July 17. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Through Aug. 3.
Where: Moonlight Stage Productions at the Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1250 Vale Terrace Drive (in Brengle Terrace Park), Vista.
Tickets: $17-$57 (discounts available)
Phone: (760) 724-2110