Gobstoppers, golden tickets and a river of chocolate: For decades, a wide audience of children and adults with a sweet tooth and a lot of imagination have loved Willy Wonka.
The story of that legendary candy maker is coming to Mount Pleasant High School when the theater department presents "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
Director Tony Villar invited me to stop by rehearsal one afternoon and chat with cast members. Everyone I talked with is very excited about this family-friendly show. They say it's a lot of fun and they hope everyone will want to see it.
Senior Spencer Kiessling plays Willy Wonka. It's challenging to play a part that's familiar to so many people, he said. He wants to meet people's expectations for the eccentric chocolatier, but also bring something of himself to the role.
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Spencer's preferred response to the pressure? Ignore it. Performance comes easily to him, so he plans to take things as they come and have fun, just as he's done in plays over the past four years.
While Kiessling is winding up his high school dramatic career, Sam Pack is just beginning hers.
A freshman, Sam landed the role of Charlie Bucket, the boy who finds the last golden ticket. When she auditioned, Pack said, she was hoping for any role, and was honored to learn she'd been chosen for a big part. She's loved the whole experience: great cast, good directors and everything coming together well.
Another student who clearly enjoys acting is Andrew Ronacher. After he was "thrown on stage" just a year ago, Andrew said, he quickly learned to get over his stage fright and have fun.
Now he's playing Grandpa Joe, the part he'd hoped to get. He loves Grandpa Joe because he's so positive. He just knows Charlie will get a golden ticket, and he's like a little kid himself when he goes to Wonka's factory.
Watching the cast and the directors work together, you get the sense that this production is a lot like Wonka's factory: a lot of hard work to make something magical. Music director Beth Downs described how the cast has really worked hard to learn their music and the way each student has developed their own unique character with accents and mannerisms.
Tony Villar talked about the ensemble and the support they give each other. He jokingly confessed that he "treats them miserably" and yet they all try to do their best.
For Villar, this production presents challenges from building amazing sets to turning a girl blue and making a boy disappear. He loves this show and sounds as excited as his students about seeing it all come together for their audiences.