The Cast


ROSEMARY HECKARD (Matilda) is delighted to be playing Matilda. She’s had a blast working with the cast and crew of Highland Park Players, bringing back live theatre. Rosemary is grateful to her mentors in educational theatre where she was cast as JoJo (Seussical) and Annie (Annie), plus many supporting roles. She is an award-winning violinist, state-champion writer of poetry, and loves getting lost in a good book. Rosemary thanks her family and friends for supporting the show!  Performances: Friday, September 24 at 7:30pm, Saturday, September 25 at 7:30pm, Saturday October 2 at 2:00pm and Sunday October 3 at 2:00pm
 
EVERLEIGH MURPHY (Matilda) made her professional acting debut at age six performing eight shows a week as a violin-playing Ivanka in Once (Paramount Theatre). Other favorite roles include Molly in Annie (Citadel Theatre), Rachel on NBC’s Chicago Fire (Season 7) and playing a unicorn for Lucky Charms. Everleigh, age nine, is also an international print model with most recent work for Claire’s and American Girl. She is a singer, songwriter, musician and dancer too! Thanks to cast, crew, family, friends, manager, agents, and teachers.  Performances: Saturday, September 25 at 2:00pm, Sunday September 26 at 2:00pm, Friday October 1 at 7:30pm and Saturday October 2 at 7:30pm
 
 
JILL IVERSON (Miss Honey) is thrilled to be a part of her first show with Highland Park Players! Her love of story-telling and song has taken her all over the world. Favorite roles include: Carrie in Carrie: The Musical (Minneapolis Music Theater); Olive in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Artistry); Genevieve in The Baker's Wife (Artistry); and Claire in Ordinary Days (ABC Players). Love to her husband, family, friends and cats!

 

BRENT WALKER (Miss Agatha Trunchbull) is excited to be back on stage and with a group dear to his heart. Previous HPP credits include Disney's Aladdin (Aladdin), Annie(Rooster), Bye Bye Birdie (Hugo), Gypsy (Tulsa), Mamma Mia! (Pepper) Snoopy!!! (Snoopy), Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Willy Wonka (Charlie). Other credits: 9 to 5 (Joe), Arsenic and Old Lace (Mortimer), Big Fish (Zacky Price), Chicago, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray (Mikey), Into the Woods (Steward), Jesus Christ Superstar, Kiss Me, Kate (Hortensio), Leader of the Pack, Li'l Abner (Evil Eye Fleegle), The Music Man (Tommy), The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, and The Producers (Leo), Seussical (Wickersham) and The Wizard of Oz (Lion). This one is for Dad. He would have loved this.


HANNAH ROSE (Mrs. Wormwood) cannot believe she is playing this daft role in this ridiculous story. Who wants stories?! LOOKS, NOT BOOKS, people. Even the presence of her very own maggot, Matilda Rose (blimey, that's CONFUSING!), cannot redeem this rubbish musical. Previously she has appeared in other HPP bangers including Mamma Mia, The Pajama Game, Cats, and oh look nobody cares. If she bothered about anything besides hair and makeup, she would extend some bloody gratitude to Jen, Ken, Holly, Bradley, and the rest. But she does not. “This is the worst day of my life.”

JUSTIN VIDOVIC (Mr. Wormwood) is delighted to be part of his first HPP show, helping to tell such a beautiful story!  Previous favorite roles include: Harold Hill, Sweeney Todd, Van Helsing, Aramis of the Three Musketeers, the Velveteen Rabbit, Sydney Carton from Tale of Two Cities, Uncle Fester, Dr. Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's Monster.  Justin loves to write, especially plays.  He directs plays at Prairie State College where he is an English professor (who likes books).


EMIL GINTER (Michael/Dad) once starred as himself in a reality TV episode about having a large family. Previously part of Arena Theater Workout at Wheaton College. Then sat around for a while and tried not to get sick. Very excited to make his Highland Park Players debut!


HEATHER BENVENISTE (Mrs. Phelps/ Mom/ Nurse) is honored to join Highland Park Players for her first mainstage production; alongside her daughter, Scarlett (Tommy). Past performances include James and the Giant Peach (Aunt Sponge) with Big Noise Theatre, Madagascar ... (Gloria) with HPP, Legally Blonde (DA J. Riley) with FSTC, Wizard of Oz (Wicked Witch) with Northbrook Theatre, and Little Shop of Horrors with DFT. Heather practices law and is on the board of directors for Big Noise Theatre. She would like to extend love and thanks to Scarlett, Garrett, Eric, Holly, Bill, Mom, Dad, Byron, and Roxie. 

SARAH TILFORD  (Doctor/"Creepy Big Kid”/Mom) is excited to be making her HPP debut! She works full time directing, writing, costuming, and managing at Sarah Hall Theatre Company on the North Shore, which brings her joy beyond measure. Sarah has worked professionally as an actor and playwright in Chicago for the past 7 years. She sends extra love and thanks to Andy, Mom, Sarah Hall, and the fabulous cast & crew of Matilda!

 

DERIC 
GOCHENAUER 
(Entertainer/ Sergei/ Big Kid) is a positive force for good in the world. After four years in the national tour of Tony N' Tina's Wedding, he came to Chicago to find success on stage and behind the scenes. Deric recently directed 9 to 5 at Big Noise theatre in Des Plaines, and is currently a freelance artist as well as the Equity Wing Chair for the Jeff Awards. (https://dericgochen.myportfolio.com)

DAVE LEMRISE 
(Rudolpho/ Escapologist/ Big Kid/ Dad/ Nurse)

has performed throughout the area in various choirs, liturgical events, weddings, recordings and regional theatre productions. Favorite roles include Aristide (Can Can), Don (Singin in the Rain), Joseph (Joseph), Tin Man (Wizard of Oz), Dr. Bonney (It Runs in the Family), Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast), Linus (Sabrina Fair), King (King and I), Munkustrap (Cats) Bert (Mary Poppins) Tommy (Brigadoon) and Scrooge (A Christmas Carol).  Hobbies include piano composition and marathon running. Enjoy the show!

 

ARIA CALDWELL (Cook/ Mom/ Nurse/ Big Kid) 
is super excited to be back with the Highland Park Players  and this time in a mainstage production! In the before times, you may have recognized her as a dancing cupcake or a right-hand lemur. Though they are grateful for all of the virtual performance opportunities that have come in the past year, Aria is thrilled to be back onstage with a live audience. So much love to this brilliantly talented cast and production team!

KELLY GROSS (Acrobat/ Mom/ Nurse/ Big Kid)
is incredibly excited to share this story with all of you! Matilda has been a favorite show of hers for many years, and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to perform in it! She received her Bachelors in Theatre from Illinois State University in 2020. Favorite credits include Vinegar Tom (Alice), Sweat (Jessie), The Wolves (#13), and Brooklyn’s Bridge (Emily).

MELISSA HARRISON
(Mom/ Nurse/ Big Kid/ Henchman) is happy to be making theatre in the Chicago area again, after nearly 10 years in California. Favorite roles include Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods (Cabrillo Stage); Miss Honey in Matilda (CMT-Marquee); Amy in Company (Actor’s Theatre); and Nutcracker in A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas (Emerald City Theatre). Melissa is a licensed psychotherapist as well as a personal coach specializing in creatives and performers.

EMMA WIDLOWSKI (Mom/ Nurse/ Big Kid/ Henchman)

is delighted to be working with Highland Park Players again after playing Sophie in Mamma Mia. Other recent credits include Freaky Friday, Emma! a pop musical (Williams Street Rep); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Brightside Theatre); and The Polar Express (Rail Events Productions). When not appearing on stage, she choreographs the musicals at Solomon Schechter in Northbrook. 


BRENNAN MONAGHAN (Bruce) is excited to be joining Highland Park Players! He has worked with the Marriott Lincolnshire Theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Project, Cricket Theatre Company, Ovation Theater Company and has enjoyed the roles he has had at Seth Paine Elementary and Middle School North. He would like to thank his family and friends for their love and support and his mentors, Mary Beth Euker and Kathy Mirabelli, for their coaching and faith in him.

PHOEBE BERKOWITZ (Lavender) is thrilled to make her HPP debut in Matilda! A 6th grader from Highland Park, she is a member of the Performer’s School Ensemble where she was most recently seen in Shrek (Teen Fiona) and Beauty and the Beast (Narrator). Other favorite local credits include: Aladdin (Aladdin) and The Little Mermaid (Ariel). Many thanks to the entire Matilda team and her friends and family for their love and support.
 
MAGGIE ATKINSON (Kid Ensemble) is thrilled to be joining Highland Park Players in their production of Matilda the Musical! Being back on stage with a live audience is so exciting! Maggie began acting in musical theater productions when she was 10 years old, but has been singing since before she could talk. She would like to thank the production team, her fellow cast members, and crew for this wonderful opportunity. She would also like to thank her family and friends for their unconditional love and support.

SCARLETT BENVENISTE (Tommy) is thrilled to participate in her first Highland Park Players production. Previous roles include Oliver (Oliver!), Annie (Annie) , Jojo (Seussical) and Cozmo (Singin' in the Rain). Scarlett loves to create art, play guitar, and read in her spare time. She would like to thank Mommy, Daddy, Granny, Grandpa, Aunt Holly, Uncle Bill, Byron, Roxie, and...Garrett!

ALLISON BUCK (Erica) is thrilled to be in one of her dream shows with the wonderful HPP! Favorite credits include Ellie in “A Gift of Light” (world premiere), Annie in Annie, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins. You can catch her on “Peoria” on Amazon Prime this fall. Huge thanks to the whole cast and crew for making this show a miracle.
 
YESHA MISTRY (Kid Ensemble) was born in Chicago and is currently a freshman at Glenbrook North High School. She enjoys music and theatre. She lives with her parents and older brother in Northbrook. She has also been in multiple performances at Northbrook Park District.


MORGAN PODLIN (Kid Ensemble) is excited to perform for the first time with Highland Park Players. Morgan recently performed as Wednesday in The Addams Family with TEPA this summer. Prior to this, her last performance was playing Annie (Annie) with MOS in 2019.  Some of Morgan’s favorite performances have been Sour Kangaroo and King Louie.  Morgan would like to thank Highland Park Players for this opportunity as well as her family, TEPA , MOS, and Center Stage.

MATILDA ROSE (Alice) is thrilled to be in her very first full-length musical! She especially loves working on the show with her mom and dad. Her favorite roles include the Genie in Aladdin, Grace in Annie, and a Mer-Sister in The Little Mermaid. She studies tap, ballet, and pointe at Irina Makkai Classical Ballet and Dance School in Highland Park, and loves acting with Sarah Hall Theatre Company in Glencoe.

SOFIA RUFFNER (Hortensia) is thrilled to be making her debut with Highland Park Players. A 7th grader from Skokie, Sofia has performed in Murder with a Melody (Riley), Pirates of Penzance (Kate), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck), Alice in Wonderland (Alice), Mary Poppins (Jane Banks), Peter Pan (Michael Darling), Willy Wonka (Augustus Gloop), Music Man (Amaryllis) and had ensemble roles in Tarzan, The Grunch, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden and Wizard of Oz. 

ESTELLA McCARTHY SCHULTZ (Amanda) is 13 years old and is delighted to be a part of Matilda the Musical. She is making her debut with Highland Park Players. Some of her favorite credits include New Mean Girl in Mean Girlz Parody (Second City Chicago); Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol (The Raue Center for the Arts); Ugly Duckling in Shrek The Musical (St James Theater). When Estella is not performing she continues her training in dance and ASL. Estella would like to thank the cast and crew of Matilda for this wonderful opportunity. She would also like to thank her family and friends for their unconditional love and support. Estella is represented by Paonessa Talent. (REST xo)

NATHANIEL STEPHEN ARTHUR VODAK (Nigel)
is thrilled to make his Highland Park Players debut!  He was born in Chicago.  While performing in The Lion King, JR., he was bitten by the theatre bug. Other roles include:  Jojo (Seussical), Sven (Frozen), and most recently Gomez (The Addams Family).  When not onstage, Nathaniel busies himself with piano and voice lessons.  He is a member of Gus Giordano youth dance company. His favorite things to do are spending time with his family and drawing.  He would like to thank Mr. David, Miss Tuesdai, Mommy, Daddy, Mama Lo, his Gus dance teachers, Ms. Jen, and his friends Matthew and Tommy because they keep encouraging him!