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'Willy Wonka' sweetens evening with 65-member cast of locals

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"Willy Wonka" at Wheatrige Middle School

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Assemble a 65-member cast, a creative team, a local orchestra, a famous story complete with sweetened and a Candy Man, and you get the “Willy Wonka” that opened June 26 in the Wheatridge Middle School auditorium in Gardner, Kan. presented by Gardner Theater Group.

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To the delight of an almost packed auditorium, the stage took on the candy-coated sweetness of the unconventional candy-maker, the eccentric, Willy Wonka and the five children who hold a golden ticket to satisfy their wishes.

The new seats in the Wheateridge auditorium filled to near capacity for the production that sparked a world-wide hunt for five golden tickets for a chance to tour Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory, where winners stand to win a lifetime supply of delectable goodies.

“Willy Wonka” comes from the creative mind of Roald Dahl and his famous short story, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which later became the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and now the stage show, “Willy Wonka.” Dahl further created several other pieces heralding the adventures of Wonka and Charlie.

“The show features fabulous singing, wonderful dancing and unforgettable characters," Becky DeNoon, director, said. "We had an amazing turnout at auditions, which made casting the show very difficult, but the show resulted with a stellar cast of wonderfully talented people."

The cast of 65 children, teenagers and adults from Gardner and the surrounding area has been rehearsing since April. GCT also has received a great deal of what DeNoon calls "behind-the-scenes help" from cast families and the local community to make sure all aspects of the show are running smoothly.

"Sets, costumes, rehearsal space-many people have stepped up to put their talents and resources to good use for this production," DeNoon said.

The show starts with fun and it’s non-stop with Wonka’s first melodic entrance to the curtain call for the entire cast. Will Perry sings and acts the part of Wonka as he ushers the ticket winners through his factory and discovers their hidden greed, selfishness, overbearing natures, stubbornness, gluttony, anger, rage, and more. Perry is good to react as all of the deadly sins manifest themselves in the characters.

As for the ticket-holders. Great performances come from the quintet of actors, Adam Laird, Luke Scheck, Caroline Hogue, Jade Haney, and Riley Buck. All were believable in their characters with Hogue standing out the most with her most annoying and spoiled Veruca character.

The adults in the cast were fun, it not always lively. Even though always in bed, Kevin Keltner was a funny Grandpa George. Ted Marsh was a happy and hopeful Grandpa Joe. Dale Sass was a good Mr. Bucket. Nichole was a hilarious Mr. Gloop and Dan Naden was a funny Mr. Salt, to spotlight a few of the adults. As The Candy Man, Cooper McGuire delivered the most recognizable musical number, “The Candy Man,” made famous by legendary singer/dancer, Sammy Davis, Jr.

The choruses, dance ensembles, Oompa Loompas, squirrels all added to the special magic that makes “Willy Wonka” a fun evening. The show will sell out, so advance ticketing is encouraged.

Cast of characters: Will Perry as Willy Wonka, Adam Laird as Charlie Bucket, Ted Marsh as Grandpa Joe, Kirstie Drew as Grandma Josephina, Kevin Keltner as Grandpa George, Catherine Hansen as Grandma Georgina, Dale Sass as Mr. Bucket, Nancy Falkner as Mrs. Bucket, Luke Scheck as Augustus Gloop, Nicole Beaton as Mrs. Gloop, as Veruca Salt, Dan Naden as Mr. Salt, as Violet Beauregarde, Paula Naden as Mrs. Beauregarde, Riley Buck as Mike Teavee, Taylar Rabel as Ms. Teavee, Cooper McGuire as The Candy Man, Jeff Nyhus as Phineous Trout, Matthew Swords as James, Sophie Daniels as Matila, Ashlea Reimer as Sophie, Max Taylor as Danny, Olivia Schultz as Billie; Oompa Loopas: Jaclyn Adamson, Cati Bowman, Hudson Clements, Megan Clifford, laina Collier, Lacey Collier, Kirstie Drew, Ella Falkner, Nancy Falkner, Catherine Hansen, Olivia Harms, Annie Kuzma, Aidan Lewis (soloist), Alexanderia Marsh, Allie Mathos, Luke Mayo, Olivia Meehan, Blake Moore, Madeline Owens, Julia Pogue, Dylan Rankin (soloist), Olivia Schultz, Ali Shappell (soloist), Krista Smith, Matthew Swords, Faith Trug (soloist), Mackenzie Werner (soloist); Featured Dancers: Sophie Daniels, Kaylyn Gordon, Joy Haney, Olivia Hogue, Lauren Mason, Ali Shappell, Kyla Trotter, Fiona Turner, Kira Turner, Katie Werner, Mackenzie Werner, Madyson Werner; Candy Chorus: Tate Allen, Natalie Church, Hudson Clements, Meila Cordray,Vega Cordray, Laurissa DePew, LeiLoni DePew, Ella Falkner, Annie Kuzma, Olivia Meehan, Rosa Rodriguez, Krista Smith, Julia Truitt, Ava Marie Werner; Chorus of Cooks: Natalie Church, Lacey Collier, Kirstie Drew, Joy Haney, Catherine Hansen, Allie Mathos, Taylar Rabel, Julia Truitt; Squirrels: Tate Allen, Natalie Church, Meila Cordray, Vega Cordray, Laurissa DePew, LeiLoni DePew, Ashlea Reimer, Rosa Rodriguez, Julia Truitt, Ava Marie Werner; Orchestra: Annie Biggs, Ernie Biggs, Katie Daniels, Dominic Kassing, Guy Cauthon, Ian Lanigan, Alexa Wilden, Rebecca Munson, Lauren Stephenson, Lauren Quails, Judy Sass, Katie Stueve.

The Creative Team: Director,Becky Denoon; Music Director, Lindsey Perry; Orchestra Director, Will Biggs; Accompanist, Judy Sass; Choreographer, Amy Arnott; Producer, Jenny Daniels; Stage Managers, Allie Fabing, Michaela Minea; Lighting/sound, Stephanie Clements, Katie Laird; Xs Lighting, Set Artist, Janice Haney, Costumes, Annette Cook; Hair & Makeup, Kelly Cordray.

Performances of Willy Wonka will be at 7 p.m. on June 26, 27 and 28, with additional matinee shows at 2 p.m. on June 28 and June 29. All shows are in the Wheatridge Middle School auditorium (the former Gardner Edgerton High School building) at 318 East Washington, Gardner, KS.

General admission tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for senior citizens (65 years and older) and children (12 years and younger). They can be purchased at the door (starting an hour before each performance), from a cast member (until June 19) or at GCT's website, www.GardnerTheatre.org

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