Students dressed in their Wonka costumes. Photo contributed
Audiences of “Willy Wonka Junior” will be in for a sweet treat as some of the region’s up-and-coming young actors take them on the trip of a lifetime through a world of pure imagination.
Performances of the “scrumdidilyumptious” musical will be held at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., June 21 and 22 at the McKinney Center, located in the Booker T. Washington School at 103 Franklin Ave., Jonesborough. The show marks the first staged production to be held in the McKinney Center since it underwent extensive renovations.
Tickets are $10 for general admission, $7 for seniors and students, and $5 for groups of 15 or more with advance reservations.
As part of Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts and in collaboration with Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, children in the town’s summer education program make up the cast and crew of “Willy Wonka Junior,” adapted from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
The story follows enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka as he stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever finds 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: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather.
Audiences will follow along as the group is eliminated one by one through tempting situations in the Chocolate Smelting Room, the Chocolate River, the Inventing Room, the Nut Room and the Choco-Vision Room.
In turn, the lovable Oompa Loompas teach the contest winners a thing or two about life and each other.
Who will win the grand prize of a lifetime supply of chocolate, as each child takes the ultimate test of character without even knowing it?
Stephen Cradic, who plays Charlie, is an aspiring actor from Johnson City who dreams of performing in the Big Apple some day.
“I don’t really get nervous. I love it,” Cradic said. “My butterflies just disappear after the first scene.”
The University School fifth grader has also been cast as Baby Bear and Young Shrek in Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s upcoming “Shrek the Musical.”
“Singing ‘Golden Ticket’ is probably my favorite part of this show. I just love being on stage,” he said.
Playing Willy Wonka will be Emma Lowe of Gray. A seventh grader at Gray Elementary School, Lowe has been involved with Jonesborough’s theatre programs for a year, but has been acting since she was 8. She was last seen in JRT’s production of “Seussical the Musical” during the 2012 summer education program.
“I do still get a little nervous, but I just pray for a good show before I go on stage,” Lowe said. “I love singing the song ‘Pure Imagination’ in ‘Willy Wonka Junior’.”
With a theatre resume longer than that of most folks triple her age, Annika Burley, who has been acting since she was 6, marks her 20th show in Jonesborough with “Willy Wonka Junior,” in which she plays Phineous Trout the reporter.
“Seussical the Musical” has been her favorite show in Jonesborough so far. She was recently cast as Teenage Fiona in JRT’s “Shrek the Musical.” The ninth grader at Science Hill High School said that adding her own twist to a character is a fun way to get the audience involved.
“I like to improve lines,” she said. “The hardest part is getting them all straight.”
A total of nearly three dozen cast and crew members make up Jonesborough’s musical theatre conservatory. Students range in age from kindergarten through 11th grade.
Rounding out the cast are Magnus Allen, Kailee Amburgey, Will Bishop, Guthrie Butler, Lexxi Carter, Sydney Compton, Hannah Dawson, Charlie Dudgeon, Megan Dudgeon, Angelica Fischer, Sydney Fleming, Christina Fulcher, Meredith Fullbright, Aiyven Gilbert, Jalen Glass, Mackenzie Glover, Jillian Hawkins, Garrett Howell, Rowan Mills, Gary Rice, Eliza Smith, Eryn Stelzer, Lily Stelzer, Sophia Wabshall and Amber Whaddoups.
Students are under the direction of Janette Gaines, a JRT director and educator, and Kathleen Buttolph, director of Arts Education for Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts. Choreography is by Hannah Jeffress, with musical direction by Lucas Schmidt.
The show’s lighting director and designer is Karen Elb. Technical assistants include David Hyde, Magda Gaines, Molly Gaines and Taylor Vanders
Tickets can be purchased by calling (423) 753-1010 or by visiting the JRT website, www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.