Willy Wonka needs no introduction because children have loved the story for generations.
Maybe it's all that candy in Wonka's factory that lures the youngsters. Or maybe it's the oddball man himself the kids adore.
Whatever the reason, the Academy of Children's Theatre will kick off its 2011-12 season by bringing to life the story of Willy Wonka once more starting Sept. 23 in the auditorium at Chief Joseph Middle School in Richland.
"I'm thrilled by the upcoming season," said Paris Rodgers, ACT's executive director. "We love to bring children's literature to life, and to give the different ages of our students challenging material to work on."
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The play's director, Julie Schroeder, says most people are familiar with the story, whether it's through the book or the movies.
"There are so many magical moments in this show. I don't even know where to begin," Schroeder said. "It was the magic and whimsy of this story that put it on the list of top stories I like to tell on stage."
But the coolest thing about the Willy Wonka play is the three generations of actors playing the roles, including a couple of children acting with their real grandpas on stage, she added.
There's even a grandma of one of the kids involved who will be making her debut.
Scott Miller plays Willy Wonka with Charlie played by Colby Richards. Charlie's grandpa Joe will be played by Ted Miller, whose grandson Rowan Miller will play a squirrel in the play.
Nick Wagoner will portray Mrs. Gloop. And, his granddaughter will play a squirrel in the production.
"Yes, he'll play a woman, and Nick can play the best German woman I've ever seen," Schroeder said. "The audience will love it."
Mary Ellen Thomas is the grandma making her theatrical debut in Willy Wonka. She'll portray Grandma Josephina. Thomas's granddaughter as well as her daughter are part of the stage crew.
"If that doesn't speak both of ACT's power to transcend generations now and for years to come, I don't know what does!" Schroeder said.
Other key members of the cast include Shane Morrow as Mr. Bucket, Barbara Wilson as Grandma Georgina, Gregg Andrews as Grandpa George, Perry Kelly as Candy Man, Dylan Page as Augustus Gloop, Tristan Mailloux as Phineous Trout, Meg Nelson as Veruca Salt, James Callaghan as Mr. Salt, Zoe Grate as Violet Beauregarde, Mikayla Sievers as Mrs. Beauregarde, Dan Conley as Mike Teevee and Hazel Kwak as Mr. Teevee.
Keri Kelly plays Mathilda, Alex Veysey plays James, Quin Hanrahan plays Sophie, Nathan Grant is Danny, Devin Smith is Alfie and Meaghan Tvedt is Billie.
Tickets to the show are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and ages 12 to 18 and $7 for kids 11 and younger. Tickets are available at the ACT studio, 213 Wellsian Way, or at the door.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com