Mer­maid star makes vil­lains her spe­cialty

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - > BY JANET SMITH The Lit­tle Mer­maid is at the Michael J. Fox The­atre in Burn­aby from next Fri­day (Fe­bru­ary 3) to Fe­bru­ary 18.

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.

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