Mermaid star makes villains her specialty
Erin Matchette is a nice person, a mother of two children who has run a licensed family daycare, taught preschool, and now works in early education.
But on-stage, Matchette has been transforming herself into a series of scary villains in Align Entertainment musicals. Last fall, she found herself as Mrs. Potiphar, tempting the title character in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Before that, she played an even darker character, the nasty child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the long-nosed baddie who lures children with lollipops.
“The child-catcher was pretty terrifying,” Matchette admits, laughing over the phone from her day job. “We do matinees on schooldays and there were children who cried. One peed their pants.”
She’s optimistic that her role this spring, as Ursula, Ariel’s meddling aunt in The Little Mermaid, won’t strike quite as much terror into little ones. “Anyone familiar with the Disney animated movie probably wouldn’t be too scared,” she says. “Now everyone knows there’s going to be a happy ending for Ariel.”
For this elaborately staged production, complete with a live orchestra, she’ll be wearing an outfit that will help her bring the saucy cephalopod to life. The giant costume features six artificial tentacle-arms; the other two are her own. The musical also fleshes out more of the back story of Ursula, the evil aunt who strikes the deal with Ariel that she can become human if she loses her voice. Just how the production will bring the feel of underwater swimming to life remains a secret, but suffice it to say the cast members have a few magical tricks up their sleeves.
Matchette, who’s had a 30-year career in musical theatre, almost needs eight arms to juggle what she has on the go. As well as her full-time job, she coowns the Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts, the theatre school that’s run by her husband, Chad Matchette— who also directs Mermaid.
“The Lindbjerg Academy runs after school from 3:30 to 9:30, and then all day Saturday, so we’re ships passing in the night,” Matchette says.
So collaborating on these family shows is about the only time they can spend together—not that it doesn’t pose the odd challenge. “I always think we’re better working together,” says Matchette, who’s also joined by her daughter, Emily, as assistant choreographer on this production.
So villains, for now, are it for Matchette. “I enjoy sinking my teeth into any role,” she says with a laugh. “Even in my 20s I was never a lyric soprano, I was never an ingénue, I’m not a dancer.” And anyway, everyone knows the villains always have more fun.
Off-stage, Erin Matchette is a mom who works in early education.