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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Arts for Youth Spotlight: Matthew Torbett

Matthew Torbett (photo by Lidany Rouse, All American Portraits)
Matthew Torbett (photo by Lidany Rouse, All American Portraits)

Torbett feels he belongs on stage

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | January 27, 2016

Matthew Torbett says, "I feel like I came out of the womb singing and tap dancing. I don't think I ever had a real "discovery' of an interest in theater, but rather just an innate feeling that I belong on stage."

He's been on stage a great deal. In three seasons at Barter Theatre, he participated in seven shows and a staged reading. Recently, he played Grantaire in Theatre Bristol's production of "Les Misérables."

Before that, he was in the Theatre Bristol Youth Service Board's production of "Pygmalion,"where he portrayed Freddy Aynsford-Hill, and he was Issachar in the main stage production, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

At Barter, he was Chip in "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," Tommy Mara Jr., in "Miracle on 34th Street," in the children's chorus in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," part of the Lollipop Guild and other roles in "The Wizard of Oz," Young Henry in "Frankenstein," Nathan Lukowski in "The Full Monty" and Stephen Toomey in the world premiere, "Where Trouble Sleeps."

"My next big adventure will be Kingsport Theatre Guild's spring production of "13: The Musical'by Jason Robert Brown, and I will be playing the lead character, Evan Goldman. Performances will be in March, and there's really a connection for everyone in this show, so we expect a broad audience. This whole show is about the awkwardness of turning 13, and we've got a really talented cast pulled from all over the region that's going to bring these fun characters to life," he says.

"The exploration of how every written word gets carefully placed onstage is my favorite interest in performing," he says. "A lot of times in interviews, Broadway actors say that every performance is different. That's true on the small stage, too. Every actor and actress is responsible for the choices they make onstage, and that leads to unique characterizations. No one will walk the same exact path onstage as they did the night before, or any night for that matter, and the goal is to change and lift every person's soul, whether they're performing or in the audience. That's the magic of theater, and that's my main interest."

Matthew says he has no preference among drama, comedy or musicals. "I believe that a good actor should be able to make the most out of anything. I tend to stick with musical theatre, because I can showcase almost all my talents, but musicals can be comedic or dramatic. It's the best of all worlds. I also don't have a real style or approach either, because every role in every show is just so different, but whatever I do, it's intense and challenging. I like it that way."

He does have a dream role in mind – Billy in "Anything Goes." "I absolutely adore that show, it's just so much fun. My favorite composers are Jason Robert Brown and Stephen Sondheim. Their scores are just so technically challenging, and it's fun and rewarding to take a song of theirs and perfect it and be able to say, "I did it. This is in my repertoire.' My favorite show of all time, however, has got to be "Heathers: The Musical.' It's a true film-to-musical adaptation and it's just so good."

He has a lot of influences. Glenn Patterson, who directs at Theatre Bristol, is one of them. He is involved in the Highlands Youth Ensemble, and the director, Jane Morison, is a large influence on his musical talents. Musical theatre teachers, Peggy Russell and Kim Lundin, are also influences.

His Barter influences include Richard Rose, Amanda Aldridge, Hannah Ingram, Ashley Campos and Sean Campos. His Broadway role models include Sutton Foster, Sierra Boggess, Christian Borle, Annaleigh Ashford and Patina Miller.

Matthew says "Acting is more than what's on the stage. It's in the heart. It's what has fueled social interaction since the ancient Greeks: it's history. It's proven to be infallible. It's concrete and a part of human nature."

He plans to study international business in college but is considering adding a double major in musical theater. "Whether or not I add the second major, I'll still participate in performing in college shows, as well as other musical ensembles."

In addition to theater, Matthew plays percussion in the band at Sullivan East High School, and was the drum major last marching season.

Matthew is 16 and a senior at Sullivan East High School. He is the son of Mark and Kim Torbett.