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No Ties, Please!

The four stars of Broadway’s Matilda on what gifts they’re hoping for, why Christmas morning can be hit-or-miss, and the enduring appeal of Dick Van Dyke.

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Clockwise from left, Broadway’s four Matildas: Milly Shapiro, Bailey Ryon, Oona Laurence, and Sophia Gennusa.   

Oona Laurence, 11

Do you have a gift-giving plan in place for your fellow Matildas?
Well, for Milly, she’s a very morbid child; she likes bloody stuff. I’m probably going to get her a book of scary stories. And Sophia, she really likes fairies, so I might get her one of the flying fairies you see in Toys ’R’ Us. And for Bailey, I think she really likes dancing. I probably want to get her some ice skates.

Have you thought at all about what you want?
Um, yeah. I want to get a bunk bed.

What’s your favorite part of the holidays?
I really like getting up in the morning. There is so much anticipation to see what you got. But then I don’t always like the part after you come downstairs, because sometimes they’re good presents and sometimes they’re bad and you’re disappointed. The fun part is “What are you gonna get?! What are you gonna get?!” After that, it could go downhill.

The middle of Times Square during the holidays: fun or annoying?
It’s annoying when we’re trying to get to Matilda and there’s so many people crowding around us. We’re like, “Ahhh, excuse me!” And it takes fifteen minutes to get from 44th to 45th Street.


Bailey Ryon, 11

Does your family have any holiday traditions?
We go to my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve and they hide the pickle under the tree.

A pickle?
It’s like an ornament pickle; I’m not sure why. I think it’s a Polish tradition. Usually my older brother finds it. I think if you find it, you get like $1 or something. Then we ride around in the car and try to find Rudolph’s nose; we try to find his light when he’s flying in the sky. I think I saw it one time. Also, my older brother, every Christmas morning he has to come and jump on me. Well, he doesn’t do it as much anymore—he’s 14, so he’s really tall. Now he just comes up to my bed and makes a weird face.

Have you thought at all about what presents you want?
I love old shows like I Love Lucy, and last Christmas I got season one, so I want season two this year. I just love Lucille Ball. She’s really funny, and Dick Van Dyke is my favorite actor. He’s a really good singer, and he’s been in so many things.


Milly Shapiro, 11

So Oona said you’re into scary stuff.
I really like watching horror movies with Oona, because her eyes get as big as saucers, and her mouth makes a really small O, and then she screams when something scary happens. And then me and my sister are sitting here normally while ­Oona’s freaking out. It’s hilarious.

Do you have any special duties on Christmas?
We bake sweet potatoes with marshmallows. I help, but my sister does not. She has had two blender disasters. And we don’t go too crazy with decorations, but I tell everybody where to put stuff.

Do you do anything special for Santa?
Last year, I baked cookies—not from scratch though, from a mix. I set them out with milk, which I put in the freezer first so it won’t be room temperature and gross when he gets it.

What are you hoping he’ll bring you?
I want two things. A robotic dog, because I am allergic to real dogs. And some American Girl doll clothes. I have a bunch of the dolls—Kit, Ruthie, Molly, and Caroline—but not that many clothes for them.


Sophia Gennusa, 10

What are the holidays like in your house?
We go crazy for Christmas. It’s like this huge holiday for us.

Are you in charge of anything in particular?
Yes, actually. I have my own little Christmas tree. It’s fake, though, ’cause if it was real, it would be too high for me.

Tell me about your relationship with Santa.
My mom and I bake chocolate-chip cookies, and we leave some milk, and he eats it all up. And we leave, like, some carrots or celery for his reindeer.

What do you think Santa’s like? I’m assuming you haven’t met him …
Actually, I’ve met him. We were having a party at my grandma’s sister’s house in Long Island, and we were in the middle of playing and suddenly we hear a little bang on the roof and he opened the door, and we were like, “How did you get in?!” At first we thought it was a burglar.

Anything on your wish list this year?
I really don’t want anything. I would like to start a charity to help people in need. It would make me happy to see other people happy.

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