For her entire career as an actor, in one way or another, Cassie Magrath has been playing Matilda.
Magrath is 9 years old and has been acting professionally for two years. She started appearing on stage at Lawton Community Theatre a few years before that.
It was through the Lawton theater that Magrath and her parents met Bryson Peterson, the technical director, who suggested she get involved in the children’s theatre program at Casa Manana Theatre in Fort Worth, Texas.
Magrath was cast in a production of “Matilda: The Musical” at Casa Manana. She played the role of Hortensia and was the understudy for the title role.
Professional theater is a different animal from community theater. Magrath found herself going from rehearsing for about two or three hours a day, to rehearsing for seven or eight hours each day.
“We spent long hours rehearsing,” Magrath said. “We would rehearse basically all day.”
“Matilda” is a show built around child actors, with the lead role being particularly demanding. The musical is based on a 1988 Roald Dahl novel, and its 1996 film adaptation directed by Danny DeVito. The actress who originated the lead role on stage on London’s West End, Eleanor Worthington Cox, became the youngest actor ever to win the Laurence Olivier Best Actress award for her performance.
Magrath spent several weeks with family in Fort Worth preparing for the show. During that time, she attended school virtually, devoting as much time to the production as possible. The experience was an important one for Magrath, and one she really enjoyed.
“I loved it,” Magrath said. “It was a huge crowd, humongous crowd. Thousands of people would come to see the show every night.”
When Magrath learned that the Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City would be performing “Matilda,” she decided to audition. Thanks in part to her previous experience with the material, Magrath came away with the lead role, making the Lyric’s upcoming production her second brush with professional theater, each time in the same show, and all coming before she’d reached the age of 10.
Rehearsals have not yet begun, but Magrath is more excited than nervous. As an understudy, she had already memorized the lines and songs for her current role while in the Fort Worth production, a fact which she believes will make the upcoming production easy to move into.
“I’ve got the lines, so all I’ll really need to do is learn the new blocking and dances,” Magrath said, using the term “blocking,” to refer to her in-character movements.
Magrath has had an early start in the world of professional theater and has found an early passion for performing. With two paid roles on her resume already, Magrath sees no reason to stop acting anytime soon.
“I really love being in shows,” Magrath said. “I think I’m going to keep acting for the rest of my life. That’s the goal, anyway.”