Matilda the Musical waltzes into new venue because of Saanich schools strike

A local musical cancelled its opening-night production and moved six performances to a new venue as a result of the Saanich School District support workers’ strike, now in its third week.

Matilda the Musical was expected to open on Thursday at the 256-seat Ridge Playhouse in Claremont Secondary School, but that performance was cancelled after the venue was made unavailable this week due to the strike, which began Oct. 28.

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The musical based on Roald Dahl’s book has been moved to the 243-seat theatre at Esquimalt High School and will now have its première at 7 p.m. Friday. It will run over two weekends and close Nov. 23.

“It would have been devastating to not be able to do the show,” producer Anthony James said. “I did not want that to happen, so I was prepared to do what I could.”

James spent days trying to find a replacement space, calling more than 25 venues — he even toyed with moving the play to the McPherson Playhouse for a run in 2020.

The cast and crew of 60, who have been working on the play for three months, spent a week rehearsing at the Ridge before James made contact with Vicki Roberts, vice-principal of Esquimalt High School, who agreed to host Matilda the Musical at the school’s theatre. “It was difficult to find something that could work for a show this size,” James said. “Nothing was a go until I spent 12 hours on it Tuesday. It wasn’t until 4 p.m. that I officially announced this is what was going on.”

If the production had been cancelled, organizers with Victoria’s non-profit Four Seasons Musical Theatre would have lost $20,000 in production costs and between $20,000 and $30,000 in revenue.

Patrons who purchased tickets for the performance on Nov. 14 can get refunds at the McPherson Theatre box office, or use them for another performance of Matilda the Musical before Nov. 23.

To purchase tickets for upcoming performances at Esquimalt High School, contact the McPherson Playhouse box office (250-386-6121) or visit rmts.bc.ca.

• For more information on the musical, go to fsmtheatre.ca.

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