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Matilda - Broadway

Roald Dahl's classic children's story arrives on Broadway.

Matilda's Karen Aldridge on Sneaking into Acting Classes & Leaving Her Heart and Soul in Chicago

Matilda's Karen Aldridge on Sneaking into Acting Classes & Leaving Her Heart and Soul in Chicago
Karen Aldridge photographed by Jenny Anderson for Broadway.com
'Matilda' is a rare, beautiful piece because it’s not shying away from the dark side of life.'

Age & Hometown: 40; Richmond, California

Current Role: Listening to Matilda Wormwood's illuminating and precocious stories as Mrs. Phelps, an encouraging and excitable librarian, in the hit musical Matilda.

Racing Through Life: As a teenager, Aldridge was an exceptional student and a naturally gifted athlete. In an effort to please her grandfather, a "big influence" in her life, she stuck with running track even though she never enjoyed it. "I just remember him being so proud, and wanting to see the look in his eyes," she says. "He passed away when I was 15, and I wrote a piece for my English class about how he was my idol. I had to get up in front of my classmates and talk about him, and I cried, but it was cathartic." The appreciative response she felt from her classmates mirrored the feeling that drew her to the theater. "I can get all of my baggage out onstage, whatever it is," she says. "Performing still gives me that same vibration, that same feeling, that same cathartic release."

Chicago or Bust: Telling her academically minded parents that she was going to tutoring, Aldridge snuck away to acting class at a local community center. "I don’t linger on things I don’t feel I’m very good at, but I would get positive reinforcement from my fellow actors and my teachers," she says. She attended UCLA but, as the daughter of a computer programmer and an accountant, majored in sociology rather than drama. A PBS special on Chicago theater inspired her to attend grad school at DePaul. "My artistic heart and soul are dedicated to Chicago," declares Aldridge, who has starred in classic and modern plays at the Goodman, Steppenwolf and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. "There's always a renaissance going on there." She even landed a juicy TV role set in the Windy City as Kelsey Grammer's doctor, Ella Harris, on Boss.

Matilda Miracle: Though she never saw herself as "Broadway material," Aldridge is thrilled to be part of Matilda, which she calls "a breakthrough" in musical theater. "No actor’s worth is defined by being in a Broadway show," she says, "but Matilda is a rare, beautiful piece because it’s not shying away from the dark side of life. It’s a sob tale, but it’s an inspirational tale." As for life in New York City: "It’s a little bit crowded for me!" Aldridge says with a laugh. "I’m not used to the crowds that stand outside of the stage door." On a professional level, she adds, "I’m not averse to seeing what happens here, but my husband and I have a home in Chicago. I'm always keeping the door open for opportunities, but my head is like, 'OK, when I’ve completed my time here, it's time to return home.'"

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