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An Oompa Loompa invasion
‘Willy Wonka’ sure to be sweet treat for BV audiences
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

April 02. 2014 9:48AM
The stage of the Performing Arts Center will be swarming with Oompa Loompas next week during four performances of Brandon Valley High’s spring musical, Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka.”

Director Kevin Brick has made room for 43 Oompa Loompas – mostly kids from the elementary and middle school ranks – in this show. But that number pales in comparison to the 152 students in grades K-12 that make up the entire cast. An additional 33 students are helping out behind the scenes with lights, props, set construction, costumes and more.

“I made it clear that I wanted a lot of little ones as Oompa Loompas,” said Brick, “So we have a large selection of various sizes and shapes of Oompa Loompas.”

This will be the first time “Willy Wonka” has been performed at Brandon Valley, but the story is no stranger to 185-member cast and crew, Brick said.

“Everybody knows the story, but the play itself is a combination of the two movies,” he said. “It’s the third alternative and there’s new music written by the authors in the last couple of years.”

Don’t be alarmed, though. Brick assures the show still has plenty of the familiar tunes, including the famed “Oompa Loompa” and “The Candy Man” numbers.

Brick said he chose this particular show for a variety of reasons. First, it allowed for a large cast that appealed to various ages of student actors.

“We have a lot of young ones, and this is a show that gives them the chance to get that experience,” Brick said. “Like everything else, such as sports, we try to keep feeding them.”

Secondly, the spring musical director wanted a show that “wasn’t too heavy.”

“ ‘South Pacific’ (presented last spring) was a wonderful opportunity, but it was some pretty serious stuff. I wanted to offer the cast a contrast. And for this children’s story, we’’ use all of the bells and whistles,” he said.

While no student-actor’s feet will leave the ground in this show, Brick said a variety of special effects – lighting, fog, snow and bubbles – are being used to stage this light-hearted show.

“We have to use our imaginations,” he said.

And some assistance from musical directors Terry Gullickson and Becky Mohr, along with assistant director Melanie Sittig, set designer/builder Mark Griebel and costumers Kendra Dexter and Cindy Bakke, along with a plethora of parent volunteers are helping to make the show come together.

“There’s lots to do,” Brick said, regarding set construction of things such as the magic boat and Wonkavator.

“We even have squirrels, just like the story says,” he adds.

New to playing a lead role is junior Chandler McGrath, who Brick cast as “Willy Wonka.” Charlie Bucket, the young boy who Willy Wonka favors with his chocolate factory, is played by Johnny Hoffmann.

It’s the first time in lead roles for both young men. But both say, they’re excited about the challenge.

“Until the first rehearsal, I was waiting for someone to tell me it was a joke,” said Hoffmann, a freshman, in regard to scoring the role of Charlie. “I really just wanted to be a part of the musical, and I wanted a speaking part.”

Hoffmann, who had previous minor roles in “Peter Pan” and “South Pacific,” said this role is “opening him up.”

“It’s hard to be big enough because I’ve never done this before,” he said.

Like Hoffmann, McGrath had a minor role in last spring’s production of “South Pacific.”
He followed up with subsequent roles in the fall play and one-act this school year.

“I came to the one-act last year and it looked like a lot of fun to do, so I decided to join the musical and found that it was a lot of fun, so much fun,” he said.

He, too, was surprised to find he’d been awarded one of the show’s leading roles.
“Honestly. I was surprised that I got it, but it was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “And it’s fun beyond what words can describe.”

Despite being on stage in nearly every scene of the two-act show, McGrath said the real fun is simply getting to be “Willy Wonka.”

“He’s so quirky, crazy, fun and weird,” McGrath said. “And I’m a little crazy, too.”

Brick said the show has come together well in the last few weeks. Saturday was the cast’s first complete run through in costume and make-up, and that’s when Brick lets the kids take over.

“I try to give them all the tools, everything they need to know,” he said. “Then, I sit back and let the kids do their thing.”

Tickets may be tough to get at this time. Jessica Henson sold the last ticket to Friday’s performance a week ago. But she said there were still some seats available for the Thursday, Saturday and Sunday shows.

“Tickets are selling very well,” Brick confirmed. “It’s great to see people come out and support us, as this has become a really special event.”

With the curtain scheduled to go up for its first public performance tomorrow, Brick simply hopes audiences enjoy the show.

“It’s a pretty simple story, script,” he said. “We’ll try to bring it to life.”
What: BVHS Spring Musical, “Willy Wonka”

Dates & Times: April 3, 4, 5 – 7 p.m.; April 6 – 1 p.m.

Where: BVHS Performing Arts Center

Tickets: $6 for adults, $4 for students. Call the box office at 582-8039 or purchase at
BVHS office 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.

Brandon Valley High School junior Chandler McGrath brings the quirky Willy Wonka to life on the stage of the Peforming Arts Center in this week's production of musical by the same name, "Willy Wonka." This year's spring musical involves 185 students in grades K-12. For more on the show, see page 6A. Photo by Jill Meier

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