Musical Theater Tradition Shines with Matilda, Jr.

Staged at Pioneer Hall on the campus of Freeman Academy, the Freeman Area Children’s Choir production of Matilda, Jr. The Musical gave evidence to the fact that musical theater continues to be alive and well in the Freeman community.

The June 25 performance was the culmination of just 10, half-day rehearsal sessions carried out as part of a summer theater camp headed up by Amber Bradley and Iwona Lewter.

While Freeman is home to Schmeckfest – a celebration that has earned a long-standing reputation for high-caliber musical productions – it’s the youngest members of a community that are key to keeping strong traditions alive.

The Freeman Area Children’s Choir was founded by Mavis Ortman in 1993. Thanks to her dedication, as well as the financial support provided by the late John R. Waltner and the late Pauline Waltner, hundreds of young singers and budding thespians in the area were given the opportunity to hone their singing voices and take the stage at an early age.

In 2013, Ortman handed the baton to Sheila Epp who carried on the FCAA tradition through 2019. Just this past fall, Amber (Mehlhaf) Bradley – herself a member of FACC when Ortman headed up the group – teamed with Iwona Lewter to bring back a community-wide choral opportunity for kids. As the new co-directors of FACC, they assembled a children’s choral group, presented a 2022 fall concert and now organized a theater camp that resulted in an outstanding performance of Matlilda, Jr.

Bradley earned undergraduate degrees in elementary education and music from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa; she teaches fifth and sixth graders at Freeman Academy. Lewter is a junior-senior high vocal music instructor with the Freeman Public School District and was a professional actress in Poland before moving to South Dakota. In addition to a master’s degree in education from the University of Sioux Falls, she holds undergraduate degrees in acting and music performance.

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