Indian Players to present “Willy Wonka” this spring

Willy Wonka WilderCasting has begun for the Itawamba Agricultural High School Indian Players’ production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

Based on the classic 1971 musical film of the same name, “Willy Wonka” will feature a cast of around 60 people, elaborate costumes, large sets and numerous beloved songs.

Countywide auditions for the production began earlier this week.

The production will run from Feb. 26-28 at the Fulton Grammar School Auditorium.

Based Roald Dahl’s the beloved children’s novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Willy Wonka” tells the story of Charlie Bucket, a waiflike child whose luck turns around when he wins a chance to tour the factory of eccentric chocolatier, Willy Wonka. The movie, originally created to promote a line of Wonka chocolate bars, has grown to be considered a classic of children’s film-making, due in large part to Gene Wilder’s iconic performance of the title character.

The film features a string of now-classic songs, including “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” “Pure Imagination,” and immensely hummable “Oompa Loompa” song, all of which will be featured in the local production.

According to Victoria Blake, head of the school’s drama department and the productions director, “Willy Wonka” marks her department’s return to large-scale musicals after a yearlong break. Following a string of big musical productions each spring, including “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” and “Grease,” the group took a smaller approach last year with a less elaborate Christmas play.

“Willy Wonka” is a big production, one that will present a sizable challenges for the cast and crew.

“One of the most challenging things for this production will be the sets and the props,” Blake said. Ditto the some of the film’s most memorable special effects-filled scenes. For example, the Fizzy Lifting Drink scene, during which Charlie and Grandpa Joe do a bit of floating … not an easy trick to pull off in a high school production.

“In the movie you have so many special effects that they can use. When you’re on the state, recreating some of this will be really difficult to do,” Blake said. “We don’t have any fly systems at the grammar school. We can’t hoist anyone up. But we’re going to try to do that the best we can. I think we’re going to have to be super creative with this to capture the ‘wow’ factor of that movie. I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge.”

That said, the production wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if it were easy. The same large set pieces and elaborate musical numbers that create the challenge are a large part of what makes the story so memorable.

That said, at its heart, “Willy Wonka” is really a simple story about sincerity, kindness and hope … themes that are as important today as they were in 1971, or even back when Dahl’s novel was originally published in the 1940s.

“There are so many life lessons in this. Some of the kids in this story are so selfish. But Charlie is a good boy, a kid who does the right thing,” Blake said. “I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned in that.”

Indian Players to host fundraising fest in Sept.

A big production like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” needs a lot of financial support. In order to raise funds for the show, the group will be hosting the Willy Wonka Festival at Fulton’s downtown Playgarden Park on Saturday, Sept. 27.

The event will feature live music, food, an auction, games and vendors.

The fest is still in need of vendors, cakes for the cake walk and items for the Chinese auction. The cost to set up a booth is $25, all of which will be used to help fund February’s production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” All proceeds raised during the cake walk and auction also go to help the production.

Vendor forms can be picked up at the IAHS main office, Fulton City Hall or the Cultured Cow in downtown Fulton. For more information, call 662-862-3104.



About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 18 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.

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