Based on the novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Willy Wonka Kids” tells the story of Charlie Bucket whose discovery of one of five golden tickets earns him the chance to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, a wondrous and mysterious world of pure imagination.
Jennifer Flynn, director of the Glove’s summer children’s theater program, during rehearsals on Thursday said this year’s musical features the well known story and songs of the classic 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” incorporated into an approximately 60 minute show.
“It’s written for children to perform and to watch,” Flynn said. “It’s good for families.”
“It will appeal to both adults and children,” she continued. “They’re going to enjoy it, because the songs are catchy, they’re very familiar. The Oompa Loompa songs from the original movie stick in your head.”
Beyond the scrumdidilyumptious script and songbook, Flynn said the cast of 85 four through 18-year-olds from Gloversville, Mayfield, Broadalbin, Johnstown, Fonda, Tribes Hill and Northville will make the show a hit.
“They’re extremely talented [vocal] musicians, gymnasts, actors and they’re also having a lot of fun,” Flynn said.
Cast members have been in rehearsal for just over two weeks, spending up to eight hours each day running lines, practicing songs and perfecting their staging at both the Glove and the First Congregational United Church ahead of their first performance on Thursday.
Flynn said the annual theater program at the Glove, made possible with funding from the United Way and Stewart’s Holiday Match, provides a positive activity for kids to participate in during the summer.
Flynn also pointed to the efforts of parent volunteers as integral to the program’s success and enabling the annual performances to be fully realized despite their compact runtimes by assisting with set decoration and wardrobe.
“We don’t cut back on sets and costumes and it is totally a family affair. We have parents helping build and chaperone and costume and spending time together as a family,” Flynn said. “It’s an important activity.”
During a break from rehearsals on Thursday, members of the cast spoke about their excitement leading up to their first performance this week, commenting on the quality of the annual children’s theater program and the shows that come out of it.
“It’s a very, very good experience for me summer after summer,” said Max Barker who plays Willy Wonka. “It’s special for me, because I get to put on a great show for all of my family members and just give a good experience to the community.”
“Some of my favorite shows are the ones that Mrs. Flynn has produced,” added Alissa Mangiaracina who plays Mrs. Gloop.
While most of the actors have performed in the children’s theater program and the drama clubs at their home school districts, the cast members said they always feel a certain amount of nervous excitement when they step onto the stage.
“I think everyone’s a little nervous right before you go on, but it keeps you on your toes,” Mangiaracina said.
“You still get a rush before you go on stage,” said Isabella Marshall who plays Mrs. Gloop.
Still, the cast said they are well prepared for the show to go on, pointing to all of the preparation they’ve had during rehearsals.
“Drama is a lot of work, but it’s good work,” said Lanessa Brown-Santiago who plays Mrs Teavee.
“Drama is a sport,” said Anthony Sisco who plays Mr. Bucket and Mr. Salt, arguing that the amount of physical and mental activity put in during rehearsals versus practice or a performance versus a game are comparable.
For Marshall, who graduated from Gloversville High School in June, this week’s performance has dual levels of importance as she acts out the beloved tale of “Willy Wonka” in what will be her final year acting in the Glove’s summer children’s theater program.
“There’s always the sentimental value of the childhood show coming to life. Most of us have grown up watching the 1971 [film] version,” Marshall said. “It’s fun to put that twist that we’re in it and we’re actually those characters.”
“I just graduated high school, it’s my last summer show I am actually able to perform in,” Marshall added. “It’s very special for me.”
Marshall and the cast members each pointed to Flynn’s talent and enthusiasm as director of the program at the Glove and over the drama clubs at both Gloversville Middle and High School as making performing in plays a great experience for kids of all ages.
“As someone who has worked with her for so many years, I couldn’t thank that woman enough for everything she has done,” Marshall said. “I’m sad that I’m leaving, but I know the club will be in good hands the following years and giving these kids opportunities to do something so fun.”
The cast members also encouraged the community to make their way out to “Willy Wonka Kids” to support what will be the first show at the Glove Theatre this year.
“It would be a nice community experience,” Sisco said. “Come and see it.”
“You can’t go wrong with cute little kids,” Mangiaracina added.
The Glove Theatre Performing Arts Center located at 42 N. Main St. will present “Willy Wonka Kids” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students. There are also a limited number of tables with seating for four available for $60 each that will receive table service from the concession stand.
Tickets are currently available at Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market located at 30 N. Main St. payable by cash or check. Tickets will also be available at The Glove Theatre box office one hour prior to the performances. Doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime. For more information visit The Glove on Facebook.