Garrettsville – Anyone fortunate enough to snag a golden ticket to James A. Garfield High School’s musical theatre production of “Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” had a simply nutterrific time. The four-day run of the show was virtually sold out before opening night on April 7, and only a few lucky latecomers managed to get a ticket the day of the show.
Playbills, concessions and fresh-cut flowers also ran low as audience members couldn’t get enough of anything Wonka-related. The cast and crew were enormous, and worked together effectively to construct a fast-paced, nearly flawless and entertaining show.
Although the starring leads were obviously Willie Wonka (played by senior David Soukenik) and Charlie Bucket (played by sophomore Shiloh Van Oss), the production also showcased strong and funny supporting roles of Bucket family members, TV reporters, naughty children and their parents played by 18 fellow student actors…and an ensemble of two dozen additional cast members (mostly from the Intermediate School) to play the parts of Oompa-Loompas, village children, cooks, squirrels, a computer technician, a psychiatrist and a patient.
This gave seven graduating seniors the opportunity to enjoy one last shining moment in the JAG spotlight before graduating. In addition to David Soukenik, they included Petra Brown (Veruca Salt), Nick Butto (Mr. Bucket), Brooke Heavner (Mrs. Beauregarde), Sam Roubic (Mr. Salt), Laura Sanicky (Mrs. Bucket,) and Lizzie Van Oss (Violet Beauregarde).
The production also showcased the talents of the JAG crew, which devised and built several creative sets that cleverly allowed for effective special effects on a tight budget. Children in the audience gasped when the curtain opened on the initial scene of the chocolate factory, where candy could be plucked from the colorful set and eaten by the lucky actors.
Then, when Augustus Gloop falls headlong into the lake of chocolate and gets sucked up through a drain pipe and overtaken by liquid chocolate, it makes for one of the funniest scenes… or was it when Violet turns into a blueberry for chewing the off-limits Everlasting Gobstopper gum?… or maybe it was when Veruca throws a tantrum atop the Good Nut/Bad Nut platform and falls through to the incinerator below?… No, it must have been when Mike Teavee got disembodied into millions of tiny little pieces, only to be reconstituted inside a TV to the size of a Ken Doll and stuffed into his mother’s purse before being stretched back to size in the Taffy Pulling Room. The jury’s still out on that, but all agree the sets and special effects were top notch.
Senior crew members included Curtis Cosner, Matt Curry, Jeremy DeWitt, Adam Gilmer, Jon Hecky, Sam Russell, and David Spencer. Working alongside the crew were artistic director Mrs. Kristine Gilmer and her student artists; head carpenters, Mr. Scott and Mrs. Becky Russell and their student carpenters; hair and make-up artists; costume designers; props coordinator and manager; lighting and sound operators; the pit orchestra directed by Mr. Theo Cebulla; and, of course, director/choreographer Mr. Nathan Peters and producer/technical director Mr. Joe Gaither.
According to Gaither’s closing words after the final show on April 10, the show cost $8,000 to produce. But thanks to combined fundraising efforts headed up by Mrs. Carol Slaughter, show ticket sales, candy bar sales, flower and concession sales, and ticket sales to Breakfast with the Cast at the elementary school all worked together to actually allow the production to make more money than it spent.
After 12 weeks of planning, preparing, rehearsing and producing, the curtain has closed on the 2011 Spring Musical at James A. Garfield High School and its 14 graduating seniors. But a new curtain will rise next year on yet another stage of pure imagination that’s sure to please audiences in 2012.