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A world of pure imagination

'Willy Wonka' opens at Lakeridge High Friday night
by: VERN UYETAKE Charlie Bucket’s grandparents, from left to right, Grandpa George (Nathan Walker), Grandma Georgina (Abby Ernst), Grandma Josephine (Libby Harbour Swallow) and Grandpa Joe (Ben Larson) never get out of bed.

Looking for some delightful entertainment the whole family will enjoy? Then make a beeline to the Lakeridge High School auditorium this weekend or next to experience the school's musical production of 'Willy Wonka,' based on the 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's classic 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.'

Candy maker Willy Wonka, played by Jackson Walker, has hidden five golden tickets under the wrappers of his Wonka candy bars. The finders of these special tickets will be allowed to tour Wonka's tightly guarded candy factory and given a lifetime supply of the sweet stuff. The contest sets off a global craze with everyone desperately seeking the tickets, which are eventually found by five children from around the world.

Little do they know that one of their lives is about to take a very sweet turn.

The lucky golden ticket holders include Augustus Gloop, played by Daniel Barber, Veruca Salt (Katie Markey), Mike Teevee (Josh Wollander), Violet Bauregarde (Lea Zawada) and the hero, Charlie Bucket, portrayed by Isaac Lee.

Cast in other roles are Kyle Winkler as Mr. Bucket, Mandy Wade as Mrs. Bucket, Ben Larson as Grandpa Joe, Libby Harbour-Swallow as Grandma Josephine, Nathan Walker as Grandpa George, and Abby Ernst as Grandma Georgina.

'For me, the biggest draw is definitely the memories of the Gene Wilder film that I watched as a child,' drama instructor and director Joe Theissen said. 'The characters and songs jumped right back into my head as soon as we began working on the show. I also hope that audiences will be able to hear the messages that the show offers with regard to manners, selflessness and strong character.'

The songs are also a favorite part of the cast's.

'I love the songs and the dancing,' said Meaghan Phelan, who plays a Brazilian and an Oompa Loompa. 'Kids will definitely love this show and laugh a lot. It's very family-oriented.'

Music director and school choir director Bill Campbell said the musical includes all of the songs from the 1971 movie plus many more, all accompanied by live music.

'This is a great family show,' he said. 'Parents and kids should come to see this. It's going to be a fun time. We wanted to do something that appealed to a broader age group. This is perfect for little kids. It's not too long for them, and they will definitely love the story.'

The play involves about 100 students as actors and tech crew and orchestra members.

Colorful and imaginative props such as the Gobstopper machine, a flying television screen, Charlie's grandparents' bed and other surprises make this a production in which children of all ages can lose themselves. The technical production requirements have been a fun challenge for the tech crew.

'We get to fly people!' said tech crew member Amanda Swartzmiller.

This is Theissen's first production at Lakeridge. He moved over from Lake Oswego Junior High after Lakeridge drama instructor Andy Stoltenberg decided to move back to his home state of Wisconsin this past summer.

'I inherited a fun show and a stellar cast, and we've been going full speed since the first day of school,' Theissen said. 'Normally I would be in the planning stages for months ahead of time, so it has been quite an energetic challenge to get all the elements of the show pieced together in such a short time. Lucky for me, I do enjoy a good challenge. It's been a lightning-fast adjustment period, but everyone here is unbelievably supportive.'

'Willy Wonka' opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and repeats at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The run continues with shows at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 and at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

Tickets are $8 for children 12 and younger, $10 for students and seniors 55 and up and $12 for other adults. They can be purchased at the box office before the shows or online at www.lrhs.tix.com with a $2 handling fee.