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Shearer students to present ‘Willy Wonka KIDS’

The sweet and whimsical adventures of Charlie in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory come to life in Roald Dahl’s adaptation of the classic comical musical in “Willy Wonka KIDS” this weekend at the Leeds Center for the Arts as Shearer Musical Theatre’s children perform.

Based on the 1971 “Willy Wonka” film starring Gene Wilder and Dahl’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the children’s theater presentation tells the story of Charlie Bucket, who unwraps a chocolate bar to find he is one of five winners of a Golden Ticket to tour the candy factory and a lifetime supply of sweets.

The winners are all brats except for Charlie, who is accompanied by his grandfather.

The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka’s rules or suffer the consequences.

What the kids don’t know is that the candy maker wants to retire and is looking for an heir to make his sweet dreams come true.

“This is a story about temptation and moderation,” said Shearer music teacher Collin Berner, who is the director of the play. “It is very energetic, bright and colorful.”

“We try to hold the kids to a professional standard,” he said, so that it’s not only a play for parents, but one the community will want to come and see and that makes sense.

The play features a cast of 65 children, from kindergarten through fourth grade.

The children’s version of the full-stage musical is performed in cooperation with Music Theatre International of Lexington.

Two of the actors, Robbie Smith, who plays Charlie’s Grandpa Joe, and Kaylee Cravens, who plays Veruca Salt, a greedy little girl, talked about the play and their role in it before the parents-night dress rehearsal Tuesday.

“I’m a spoiled brat,” Kaylee says proudly. She demands a squirrel, a pink candy boat and an Oompa Loompa, and she wants them now.

Kaylee said it’s kind of fun being a brat, because she doesn’t get to be one in real life.

Grandpa Joe is an amiable old man, but he’s also “kind of like a trouble maker,” especially in the “Burping Song,” when he gets Charlie to try the fizzy lifting drink, Robbie said.

“It’s very entertaining, and there’s lots of funny parts in it,” Kaylee said.

Both children said being in the play has made them think about continuing as actors.

“Even though this is my first time, I feel super-connected to it, and I just don’t want to quit doing it,” Robbie said.

Berner said this is the seventh season for Shearer Musical Theatre, and every year the kids do a different musical. The students work with a professional choreographer and highly qualified community members, he said.

They’ve also been able to do “neat things with the proceeds” from their performances. Two years ago, they purchased a full set of ukuleles for a classroom. Last year, when they performed “The Lion King,” they bought a half set of steel drums. This year, they will use the money to buy storage for the large collection of costumes and props they’ve amassed through the years.

Tickets range from $6 to $10, depending on seating options, and are available online at www.leedscenter.org. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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