Loyal Heights Elementary will present the musical production Willy Wonka Junior this weekend (Saturday May 4th at 6 p.m. and Sunday May 5th at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m) at the Ballard High School Auditorium (1418 NW 65th St).
The entire student body was invited to audition for the production and all who auditioned were cast in the musical. The script calls for just 30 but this production of Willy Wonka Junior boasts a cast of 173 students ages five – eleven years old, involving 45% of the student body.
Last year Loyal Heights performed Seussical Junior with a cast of 119, including a cameo appearance by their Principal. This year Willy Wonka Junior will feature an additional 10 cast members, who’s identities will not be revealed until the performances this weekend.
The production is not a fundraiser for Loyal Heights, alternatively, the goal is to expose students to theatre.“It’s truly amazing to see a kindergartener, who nervously clutched her stuffed animal and could barely convince herself to speak at auditions, “belt it out” on stage in front of a live audience,” says Producer Bret Ashlee Watson. “You can see the joy and sense of accomplishment on their faces,” continues Ashlee. When asked about why she is involved in the production Watson is quick to respond. “I am involved hands down because of getting to spend time with the students, getting to know each one of them and then getting to see each of them shine on stage.”
Most students in the production are first timers to the stage and share Ashlee’s excitement for both the performances this weekend and the rehearsal process it has taken to get there. When asked why he wanted to be involved in who show First Grader Asher, who plays Mike Teavee, says “because I thought it’d be really fun. I was right!” Third Grader Tova, who plays Veruca Salt, says “I wanted to be involved because I love singing and acting.” Fourth Grader Caroline, who plays Mrs. Gloop, pointed to rehearsals as her favorite part of the process so far. “I really like rehearsals because a lot of my friends are in the play and it’s cool to see them become a different person! It’s really fun to practice the songs and our lines,” says Caroline.
The production is directed by Carrie Stock, who has made six round trips from Los Angeles to offer her professional services free of charge. “To give back to a school the caliber of Loyal Heights, is investing in our futures leaders. The talent of teachers, students and with complete parent involvement, pulling for the same results, excellence with a warm fuzzy feeling, is a privilege for me,” says Stock.
In collaboration with Stock, Watson leads the team of over 90 parents, grandparents, faculty, staff, and members of the Ballard community who have volunteered over 600 hours of their time to assist with various elements of the production. Volunteers have worked on making sets & props, sewing costumes, doing hair & make-up, photography, graphic design, and other “behind the scenes” tasks. The volunteers point to many reasons for participating in the production. “For some of these kids in the play, this will be their only theatrical experience. For some it will open new doors and new passions. Either way, the memories and pride of accomplishment will last. This is the kind of experience you cannot put a price tag on,” says volunteer treasurer Julie Giebel who assists with ticket sales and the company party.
The positive impact of the production on the school community and their extended families is obvious. Audience members will be traveling from at least four different states across the country and British Columbia and travelling as far as 1,200 miles to see this weekend’s production.
In anticipation of the performances Ashlee has some words of wisdom from Willy Wonka himself. “In the words of Willy Wonka himself, “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” Thanks for being nonsensical with us,” says Watson.
Tickets are now on sale and cost is $10 per person, children under 2 years are free. Tickets will only be sold online and can be purchased here. Scholarships are available through LHPTA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
All proceeds from ticket sales go towards covering the cost of sets, props and costumes which have been designed and created for the production
Photos courtesy of Loyal Heights Elementary. Photo 1 – From left to right: Willy Wonka, played by Ian C. & Charlie Bucket, played by Isa C. Photo 2 – From left to right: Mike Teavee, played by Asher W., Ms. Teavee, played by Ella T., Violet, played by Jillian N., Mrs. Beauregarde, played by Addison L., Phineous Trout, played by Diego S., Mrs. Gloop, played by Caroline W., Augustus, played by Alex L., Veruca, played by Tova G., Mr. Salt, played by Eric Y. Photo 3: Ensemble of Squirrels.