East Wake High School chorus and theater director Amy Parker knew she was choosing a challenge when she picked Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” for the school’s spring play.
But she did so anyway, knowing from experience that shows that are good the for entire family are good for her theater group.
“For ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in the first year, the turnout wasn’t good,” said Parker, now in her fourth year at East Wake. “ ‘Aladdin’ the next year and ‘Seussical’ last year were both largely more successful. I really wanted to keep it something kids and families could come to.”
The play coming to the school auditorium March 16-18 mostly follows Dahl’s book to the letter, with some slight modernization.
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The popular story based in a chocolate factory has multiple, complex scenes. It has required a fair amount of creativity for a high school theater group to pull it off.
“We have had to make a lot more props than ever before, and there’s difficult things like having a kid vacuumed up a tube or blowing up into a blueberry,” Parker said. “Then we make people fly, we have to send a girl down a chute, and we have to shrink a kid.”
The cast consists of 27 student actors, who are accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra that plays nearly all the music for the show.
The two primary roles, Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka, are played respectively by Bradley Huskins and Samuel Salazar.
Parker said Huskins read for several roles, but his energy won him a lead role.
“He had that childlike quality I needed in Charlie Bucket, even though he’s like 6 feet tall,” Parker said.
Huskins, a senior, has no prior acting experience beyond a supporting role in “Seussical” last year. But involvement in chorus and extracurricular activities has warmed him up to the spotlight.
“I don’t know if I have a problem with nerves, but probably four years ago I wouldn’t do this,” Huskins said. “I think it’s fun. It’s hard and a lot of work, but it’s a great way to interact with people.”
Salazar, a junior, also got his first taste of acting in supporting roles in a pair of productions last year.
“I don’t normally expect to get the bigger roles, so I shoot for the middle and am fine with anything,” Salazar said. “But I was completely shocked to get Willy Wonka.”
In other notable roles, sophomore Garon Miller plays the ever-hungry Augustus Gloop. senior Julia Wrenn plays the spoiled Veruca Salt, sophomore Erica Haire plays Violet Beauregarde, junior Sloan Sanderson is Mike Teavee, and senior Jeremy Medlin is Grandpa Joe.
All three shows begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $6 at the door.