The 28-member cast of Ledyard Middle School’s “Willy Wonka Junior” has been rehearsing since February. When the curtain opens tonight at 7 p.m., they will become “the music makers, the dreamers of dreams.”
And you won’t want to miss seeing Violet Beauregarde, played by Olivia Triplett, turn into a blueberry.
“These kids have been rehearsing six days a week,” said parent volunteer Michelle Hinton, who has two children, Logan and Haley, in the show. “A lot has come together over the last 48 hours. All the loose ends are getting tied up.”
Hinton said the production has been a unique experience for cast members.
“This is a group of kids who typically wouldn’t hang out together,” she said. “Some are athletic, some are really into academics. But they’ve all come together and they’re working like a team. They’re fabulous.”
So shines a good deed in a wary world.
The casting of Patrick Strout as Willy Wonka, an enigmatic character who lives in a world of imagination, was inspired. “He’s a special kid,” said director Dan Reilly. “Just a very, very talented, always singing, fantastic kid.”
Casting a girl, Sarah Stryker, in the role of Charlie was equally inspired.
“Sarah is a great actress and a great singer,” Reilly said. “She has lots of energy and a real good presence. She’s very comfortable on the stage.”
Not to mention her uncanny talent for burping on command.
Reilly said girls actually are cast in the Charlie role about as often as boys. “At this age you get a lot of girls who are wanting to do that performance. It’s a good role. You just have to modify a few pronouns.”
He said casting in general is all about using available talent in a creative way. “You try to put the best talent in the best roles. And the three roles that really go through the whole show are Willy Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe, played by Alec Chattin. They’re the ones that everything kind of revolves around.”
Reilly said one reason he chose to produce “Willy Wonka” is because it is familiar to most kids today.
“That’s mostly because of the Johnny Depp version from several years ago,” he said. “This production is more of the classic Gene Wilder version, although there’s a little bit of both Johnny Depp and Gene Wilder.”
Both tonight's performance and an encore performance on Saturday at 7 p.m. are at the Ledyard Middle School. Tickets are $7 for adults, $4 for students, and are available at the door. The colorful sets and costuming alone are worth the price of admission.