Above: Phineous Trout (Ava Jensen) talks to Mr. Salt (Landon Preeper) as Verucca Salt (Kyla Bendera-Muroe) looks on disapprovingly.

by Stephen Dafoe

Roald Dahl’s classic story of Charlie Bucket and his visit to a well-known chocolate factory will come to life on the Morinville Community Cultural Centre’s stage May 24 and 25 at 7 p.m.

Willy Wonka Jr. is Georges H. Primeau’s drama production for 2017, and Primeau teacher and director Kaitlynn Kelsch-Miller said the Junior aspect of the title does not relate to a younger Willy Wonka. Rather, it is a version of the classic Roald Dahl tale adapted for the stage for younger performers.

“The Roald Dahl version is based off of the book. It [the play] is a lot more similar to the original [Gene Wilder] movie than the recent movie version with Johnny Depp,” Kelsch-Miller said. “It’s very much fun, kid-friendly, and family-friendly. The high school has done the more Broadway version. Ours is just a junior version for the age. It’s a little shorter and a little more appropriate for the age group.

Kelsch-Miller said 50 students make up the cast and crew for the production. Of that number, 30 are cast members. The remaining 20 make up the behind-the-scenes crew.

The students began auditions in mid-March and have been learning their lines and moves through daily rehearsals ever since.

“They’ve been working very hard,” Kelsch-Miller said, noting rehearsals run Monday to Friday for about two hours each day. “We have had one weekend rehearsal and two more planned. The kids love it. They’re very excited because our school doesn’t offer much of a drama program. Some of the students who don’t really come out of their shells are excelling.

In the titular role is Primeau student Liam Weeks. The young actor said he is enjoying the experience.

“It’s really fun. I’ve met a lot of nice, really great people, and it’s fun getting into a character you don’t normally portray in your everyday life,” Weeks said.

As to differences between himself and the Willy Wonka character he plays, Weeks notes there are major differences but also some similarities.

“Willy Wonka is definitely insane. I’m insane to an extent,” Weeks noted. “But he’s much more extravagant than I am. I’m much more confined. He’s just out there, and always tells you what he’s thinking.”

The highlight of rehearsals thus far has been the sense of accomplishment.

“[It’s] finally getting scenes right that we’ve worked on for so long that I’ve struggled with or haven’t been eccentric enough,” Weeks said. “It’s finally getting it right.”

Willy Wonka Jr. plays at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre May 24 and 25. Cost is $7 for adults and $5 for students. Doors open both nights at 6:30 p.m. with the 90-minute play starting at 7 p.m.

Trout interviews Agustus (Emma-Lee Sheernan) and Mrs. Gloop (Mariyah Chvojka).

Charlie Bucket (Sofiya Chvojka) talks to Mr. Bucket (Avry Thompson).

– Stephen Dafoe Photos

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