Last Tuesday evening, Tara Nelson watched her daughter, Brooklyn, get picked up by her pig tails and thrown through the air by her large intimidating principal. That’s right – her administrator threw the small girl like a bulging Olympic athlete competing in the hammer throw. But Tara didn’t move a muscle, didn’t try to save her daughter. She couldn’t. It would have ruined the scene. Tara, her husband Todd, and youngest daughter, Lacey, watched as their older daughter and sister, Brooklyn, 11, made her Broadway debut in “Matilda The Musical,” based on the novel by Roald Dahl, playing Matilda’s classmate Amanda Thripp.
Fans of the novel and/or 1996 film adaptation “Matilda,” will know the scene well, when the scary principal, Miss Trunchbull, picks up Amanda and throws the small girl by her blonde braids through a classroom window.
It’s a stunt, but it looks very scary,” Tara said. T
The Nelson family, residents of Cabell County near Barboursville, witnessed the sunt before, when Tara and Todd took their girls to New York City for their first Broadway experience. During every show – “Annie,” Cinderella” and “Matilda” – Tara said Brooklyn literally sat on the edge of her seat, taking in the action.
Less than two years later, she joins the action as “Small Girl Swing” on the cast. Her title denotes that she is capable of swinging between multiple ensemble roles.
“I have loved this show since I saw it on Broadway last year, and I’m so happy to now be a part of it,” said Brooklyn in a press release from the Cabell County School System.
Besides playing Amanda, Brooklyn also plays Matilda’s best friend, Lavender. Fans will know her as the girl who finds a newt and later drops it in Miss Trunchbull’s water pitcher, creating a comical scene. Since her first performance on Tuesday, Brooklyn played Amanda twice on Wednesday for a matinee and evening show – including the musical’s 1,000th performance since its Boradway premiere in April of 2013.
Before her Broadway debut, Brooklyn completed six intensive weeks of rehearsals in New York City.
A lot of things have changed for Brooklyn and her family since she completed the fifth grade at Village of Barboursville Elementary School earlier this year.
After the Nelsons watched “Matilda” on Broadway, Tara will tell you “that’s when it kind of started….. We bought the cast recording [of “Matilda”] while up there. She listened to it repeatedly from that point on.”
Since she was 8, Brooklyn has performed in a number of productions by local theaters – First State Theater Company, Curtain Up Players, and the Huntington Area Regional Theater.
But how do you make the jump from regional theaters to Broadway?
Brooklyn kept talking about the musical, so Tara started scanning the web for open casting calls. The family found a call in September 2014 and decided to make the drive. Among 200 girls auditioning, Brooklyn received a callback. But after the callback, they didn’t hear anything else.
In April of 2015, Tara found another audition, and the Nelsons packed up their car and took the trip to the Big Apple. This time, Brooklyn got a call back and continued getting called back. After her initial audition, she made three more trips to New York over the course of two months. The final callback included 13 girls, but only four were cast.
Tara was waiting for Brooklyn to finish a dance class when she got the call.
“When I saw that it was a New York number on my phone, I thought that it might be good news. She [the casting director said, ‘Are you sitting down?’”
Since the middle of July, Brooklyn and her family have made a small apartment in Manhattan their home. Starting July 16, the young actress has dedicated herself to learning the show’s songs and choreography, putting in eight- to nine- hour days, six days a week to learn her roles.
When Tara sat in the Shubert Theatre on Tuesday to watch her daughter perform for the first time, she admits that she was probably more nervous that her 11-year-old.
“We had watched a few clips of the original cast over and over and over again, so to see her actually up there doing those dances and things that I had seen so many times, it didn’t even seem real,” Tara said.
“She’s always been the type of kid that handles things well. She’s very driven…very driven.”
The Nelsons expect to remain in New York through February.
By: Anna Patrick, Sunday Gazette-Mail, Sunday, September 6th, 2015 Printed with permission by Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Brooklyn’s Mother, Tara Baker Nelson, is formerly of Clay County and an alumni of Clay County High School.
Maternal grandparents are Terry and Carolyn Baker of Lizemroes, WV. Great-Grandparents are the late Curtis and Pearl Walker of Dixie, WV and the late Joe Paul and Bernice Baker of Lizemores.
Paternal grandparents are Randy and Delores Nelson of Salt Rock, WV, Great-Grandmother Lucille Nelson, and Great-Grandfather Donald Vickers.
Special Congratulations to Brooklyn from Ezra and Crystal Schoolcraft (uncle and aunt) Addison, Hadley, and Isaac Schoolcraft!
Printed with permission by The Charleston Gazette.