Youth Impact Report 2012: Stage Lights

Peter Darling never thought he’d get tagged as the go-to stage choreographer for kids. But that’s how it’s turned out, now that his Tony- and Olivier-winning work in “Billy Elliot” has been followed up with “Matilda the Musical.”

The tuner version of Roald Dahl’s story about a precocious young girl opened to raves in London last year and will get a Broadway transfer in the spring. As choreographer, Darling oversees three teams of nine youngsters each, plus four actresses who share the title role, all between the ages of 8 and 12. (Exact casting specifications for the U.S. incarnation are still being hammered out.)

“I think of them as small adults, really,” Darling says of his young collaborators. “They find any kind of lyrical movement difficult, but they’re exceedingly good at very fast movement and they’re fantastic at learning very quickly.”

Darling comes into rehearsal with a lot of the kids’ dance moves already set. And that’s because he’s found strong boundaries are important in helping young performers feel secure.

Even after “Matilda,” working with kids will continue to be a habit for him: Next up is the West End premiere of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” another story that features a central crew of kiddie characters.

“Sometimes people go, ‘Gosh, how do you bear it?’?” he says. “But they bring out good qualities in me.”

Impact: Darling choregraphs moppets in “Matilda the Musical,” the London tuner getting a Broadway transfer in the spring.
Next: After “Matilda” in New York, the London world preem of the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” stage musical
Cause: Terence Higgins Trust and Crisis, a U.K. homeless charity

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