‘Even if you’re little, you can do a lot’

·5 min read

“Even if you’re little, you can do a lot.”

At the age of 11, actress Indigo Chesser is living up to her favourite lyric from “Matilda the Musical,” an upcoming stage production that the Keene-based performer is set to star in.

Fresh off her acclaimed appearance in 4th Line Theatre’s “The Great Shadow,” Indigo will play the lead role in all but one of the shows.

The North Stage Productions musical, the company’s first in-person event post-pandemic, will run from Aug. 25 to 29 at the Concert Hall at Victoria Hall in Cobourg, with evening and matinée performances

“I have lots of lines, it’s a professional stage company and we only have three weeks to practice and put it on. So it’s definitely a very big leap in my career,” Indigo told The Examiner.

The Tony-award winning musical is based on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book “Matilda” — later adapted into the hit 1996 film of the same name — which tells the magic-filled story of a bright bookworm who embraces her inner strength to confront the bullies in her life.

Performing has always been a part of Indigo’s life. She sang at church — performing a memorable “O Holy Night” solo — and wherever else she could.

“I’ve been singing and acting for as long as I can remember,” she said.

Indigo was exposed to the world of theatre from the get-go.

Her mother, Michelle Chesser, a teacher, was a stage manager and worked on shows when she was pregnant with the would-be star.

Michelle recalls members of the local acting community giving Indigo the affectionate moniker of “the little homestead baby.”

“I think some of her talent comes from her hearing all these people sing and act — being surrounded by it — while I was pregnant. She has a natural talent for it and was always very dramatic. She has a beautiful voice and she’s used her gift to share with people,” Michelle said.

“It’s quite lovely to be able to see your kid excel at something they love to do.”

Indigo’s lead role in “Matilda the Musical” is a full circle moment for the young performer and her mother.

Indigo was enamoured with the story growing up, and, years ago, the two went to see the production at Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto. Michelle recorded four-year-old Indigo belting out Naughty, the uplifting, take-life-as-it-comes number that features Indigo’s favourite line.

Along with playing Sunny Donegal in “The Great Shadow” earlier this summer — working with the creative cast was “like lightning in a bottle” Indigo said — the actress played a young orphan in the Peterborough Theatre Guild’s recent production of “Annie,” a play finally brought to audiences after several COVID-19-related delays.

Indigo said she feels at home on the stage — a place where she’s able to “really shine.”

“It’s just so fun. I’m really that character. It feels so amazing to act and work with people I love and care about,” she said, adding that acting, for her, is like “building little sand castles each play.”

“I like making the audience feel happy and making them feel like they’re having a lot of fun. I enjoy making people’s days a little bit sweeter,” Indigo explained.

Indigo says she wouldn’t be where she is without the supporters who’ve helped her along the way — from her mom, dad, brother and grandparents to local stage mentors including Kate Suhr, Megan Murphy, Brian MacDonald, Kim Blackwell, M. John Kennedy and Julia Scaringi.

As she prepares for “Matilda the Musical,” Indigo says she resonates with the lead character, returning to the importance of the relatable message in the song “Naughty.”

“I do find similarities between myself and the character, except one of the one things we don’t have in common is that I’m surrounded by such lovely people and she is not,” she said.

“I’m little, very little, and sometimes I get judged for being small, but I love that line (“even if you’re little, you can do a lot”). It’s just very powerful.”

Michelle echoed her daughter’s sentiments.

“Indigo is quite petite for her age, and the beauty of that is … she wouldn’t have those roles (in “Annie” and “Matilda the Musical”) if she wasn’t tiny. It’s really kind of like she’s living those words,” she said.

As for what’s next for the rising star, Indigo is set to play Chip in the upcoming St. James Players’ production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

After that, the sky’s the limit.

“I don’t know where life’s going to take me. I’d love to keep on acting; doing anything acting related. I don’t care when, I don’t care where. I just love acting.”

Tickets for “Matilda the Musical” can be purchased online through the Cobourg concert hall’s box office at experiencecobourg.ca. General admission tickets are $45.42 each. Students can buy tickets for $35.76, and children can attend for $25.13.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner