CCHS drama returns with Willy Wonka JR

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While marshalling troops for Canmore Collegiate High School’s seasonal drama department production may seem like preparations for a full-scale battle (or herding cats), staging Willy Wonka JR. will ensure the mood stays light in the theatre of operations.

Willy Wonka JR., based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, will be staged Dec. 12-17 at 7 p.m. in the school theatre; presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) of New York.

If you thought last December’s production of Shrek the Musical. was a big production, Willy has equaled it in scale in that 70 Grade 10, 11 and 12 students are taking part; on stage, off stage, in the sound/lighting booth, in management, costumes, props and sets.

Under the direction of teachers Jodi Anderson and Robyn Pasman, the students have taken on much of the on-stage and technical work required to stage Willy.

In fact, not only are students enthusiastic about staging Willy Wonka JR., they couldn’t all find spots in drama department classes this year and, when auditions came about, so many quality candidates appeared that they’ve fielded two entire casts which will perform two shows apiece.

For example, Willy will be played by both Lance Holland and Maya Baylis, while Charlie (winner of the golden ticket) will be played by India Schneider and Liam Brett.

“We had so much talent when auditioning that we found we couldn’t have just one Willy or Charlie,” said Grade 11 stage manager and assistant director Charlotte Hollister-Rank. “It was a great audition process, with myself, Miss Anderson and Miss Pasman seeing everybody and deciding on parts.

“We have an amazing, talented, cast. Kids are walking down the halls singing. People are stoked about being in this.”

Hollister-Rank herself has stage experience in London’s West End with We Will Rock You and The Newsies, for example, before her family moved from England to Canmore. While she appeared in Shrek last season, she didn’t audition this time around. “It’s (acting) something I think I want to have a career in, but I also want to direct.”

With Willy, a soundtrack was provided by MTI, but all vocals are by the students themselves, with choreography led by students who have experience with local dance schools (including a twist when it comes to Oompa Loompa numbers).

According to MTI, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka JR. follows enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka as he stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whomever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy.

Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats, but the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka’s rules in the factory – or suffer the consequences.

“On any given day you can observe creativity and teamwork at its best,” said Anderson. “It is such a privilege to team teach this course with Robyn Pasman by my side this year, as well as work creatively with the students to bring this year’s production to the stage.”

Students have been working daily during classes and on lunch breaks in preparation for the December shows.

Among those is Grade 10 business manager India Whitfield, who wasn’t in town for auditions in her first year in drama, but said, “I like being backstage and in a production role.”

Whitfield is handling public relations, setting up media interviews, creating posters and selling tickets, among other things.

“We have a really, really, great team on this and families are already asking for tickets,” she said. “The drama class is kind of like a big family.

“We have student managers for props, casting, makeup, costumers, sound and lights. It was hard to fit it all into a program.”

The production is about 60 minutes, in two acts. For Dec. 12, a silent auction has been set up as a grad fundraiser. Tickets for Willy Wonka JR. are $10 and available at the CCHS office and Rusticana Grocery on Main Street.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook