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CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY opens this weekend, March 2, 2012.

by: Kelsey Lauren

The well-known story of Charlie Bucket receiving a Golden Ticket as his passport into Willy Wonka’s whimsical world of wacky wonders kicks off March 2.  Join Charlie and his Grandpa Joe as they take a daring adventure into a world of pure imagination, filled with Oompa-Loompas, squirrels, chocolate rivers, and cotton candy dreams. Artistic Director Jeff Frank is thrilled to be directing the second to last production of First Stage’s 25th anniversary season . The show is a visually stunning version of the Roald Dahl children’s classic was adapted by Richard George.

Frank says, "When I thought about how well our designers and production team realized amazing renditions of THE NEVERENDING STORY and PETER PAN AND WENDY (both produced in 2010), I knew they would rise to the challenge of recreating Willy Wonka's whimsical world fit for our stage." 

This whimsical world has far surpassed the stage. The children involved in the show have had quite an experience from rehearsal to the Todd Wehr Theater. First Stage chats with a few of the young performers of CHARLIE: Ayanna Ellzey, Molly Flanagan, Seth Horne, Sarah Kinn, Zoey Knox, Margaret Mazza, Elizabeth Mazza, Emma Nelson, Maddie Penzkover, and Malia Westlake. 

First Stage- What is your favorite part about the rehearsal process thus far?

Ayanna - My favorite part so far is having fun and hanging out with my newfound friends. It's a great experience.
Elizabeth- My favorite part is getting to work with everyone in the play, from the actors and actresses, to our amazing director Jeff, to the cast and crew! Every single one of them. Every single one of them is so talented, wonderful, and fun to be around, it's like every rehearsal is one big family party! Each day is more fun than the last. Everyone is so supportive. No matter how many times you mess up, everyone is there to cheer you on and build up your confidence as an actor and as a person.
Emma- My favorite part of the rehearsal process so far was the first day of tech week, when I got to see the stage we were performing on for the first time in my life! I loved hanging out with everyone backstage, seeing all the set and props, and performing on the big stage.
Maddie- I love how much we all have bonded. It’s like we’re one big family now - and that’s what I love about theatre.
Malia-I love to do run-throughs with my cast and go over the Oompa Loompa dances.
Margaret- I love being with all my friends and I love being with Jeff Frank in this wonderful production.
Molly-My favorite part of rehearsals is all of the dancing and singing. It is so much fun!
Sarah- I like when we run through the full play the best.  I like to see the story from beginning to end.
Seth- My favorite part of the rehearsal progress so far is learning the blocking for each scene.
Zoey- My favorite part of the rehearsal process has been seeing the show progress from the first stages into working in the theater.

First Stage- What is it like to work with professional actors?
Photo taken by Ross Zentner

Ayanna- The fact that the actors are professionals doesn't really matter. They are, however, very helpful and supportive.
Elizabeth- It's amazing! These are people I am honored to be in a play with. It's inspiring to see people work so hard at what they love to do. They give 100% of their effort into whatever role, scene, or line they have, they encourage everyone around them to do their best while having fun, and they are just really great people. It's wonderful to watch and aspire to. 
Emma- Working with professional actors has been a fantastic opportunity for me to perfect my own acting skills while watching them act. They always go all-out in their performances no matter what, and they aren't afraid to ask the director questions or give their own thoughts and ideas.
Maddie-Super cool! It’s just a great experience working with them because you can learn so much! I also really appreciate how they treat all the young performers as equals but are also there as role models.
Malia-It feels so good to work with professional actors because they inspire me. I've always wanted to become famous with acting skills, so their experience with acting helps me to become a better actress.
Margaret- It is so awesome . . . and I love talking with them.

Photo taken by Ross Zentner

Molly-It is so cool to be able to work with professionals.  You learn so much and can do so much more than you could at other theaters.
Sarah- It is amazing to work with the professional actors.  I learn so much from watching them up close.  It's educational and makes me want to be a better actor.
Seth- Working with professional actors is awesome because the help you do your best and are amazing actors.
Zoey- It is fun to see the way they work with their characters. Also, they are very helpful and can give you tips on acting in general.

First Stage- What are you looking forward to the most during this rehearsal/performance process?

Ayanna- I am ridiculously excited to get to perform for the city of Milwaukee and entertain people. I love performing.
Elizabeth- I'm looking forward to just being a part of the play with all these wonderful people! It's just so much fun to be telling a beautiful story like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with your acting family. Nothing can compare to doing what you love to do, with people you love to do it with, in a magical play that tells a touching story about the power of hope and dreams coming true. 

Photo taken by Ross Zentner

Emma- I am looking forward very much to the first show!!! I can't wait to perform in my first First Stage show ever in fronof a live audience.
Maddie-Hmm... Everything? If I had to pick one thing, though, it would probably be opening night. It's that moment that you see all the hard work everyone put in come together into a fantastic show. And then you finally get to share it with the world!
Malia- I love performing in front of crowds and have never been in a first stage production, so I am super excited to get on stage! I am a pretty shy outside of theatre, but when I perform, I let it all go and it's so much fun!
Margaret- I am looking forward to putting all our hard work together and seeing the final product.
Molly-I am looking forward to Tech Week.  Tech week is the last week before performances.  It is when we put together the costumes, make-up, lights and sound.  You get to be on stage!
Sarah- I can’t wait to see the set come to life with the actors.  The set is unbelievable!
Seth- I'm looking forward to getting to tech and the theatre and then starting the shows.
Zoey- I am looking forward to working with the set the most. There are so many technical aspects of the play, and I can't wait to see them in action!

First Stage- Do you have a favorite moment in the play? If so, can you tell me a little bit about it?

Ayanna- I would have to say my favorite part is when I get blown up. It’s super fun. I also love Mike Teavee's scene, it's very high tech and cool.
Elizabeth- There are so many wonderful moments in this play. But one of my favorites is in the scene when all the golden ticket winners come to the gates of the factory to meet Willie Wonka for the first time. Each one is shockingly mean or ungrateful for this special opportunity they have when they meet Mr. Wonka. But then there's Charlie, the only kid who shakes Mr. Wonka's hand absolutely overflowing with happiness and gratitude to be there. His honesty and goodness show so beautifully here and you can just tell that Charlie is the best kid out of all the ones there. I'd have to say that is one of my favorite moments of the play. 
Emma- I love many parts of the play a lot, but one of my favorite parts is when Augustus falls in the chocolate pond and Mrs. Gloop freaks out- I think it's hilarious!
Maddie-My favorite moment is at the end, after all the other children are gone, and it’s just Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Willy Wonka in the glass elevator. The moment when Wonka gives Charlie the factory is just so beautiful – it makes you want to cry and smile at the same time.

Photo taken by Ross Zentner

Malia- I really like the part when Charlie gets to own the factory. Even though I'm not in that scene, I love to see that even though the Buckets were poor, anything can happen!
Margaret- I love the end in the Wonka Vator because it is so touching.
Molly-My favorite moment in the play is when the squirrels attack Veruca Salt and then they start dancing.
Sarah- My favorite scene is when the squirrels attack Veruca.  It is hilarious!  The audience is going to love it.

Seth- My favorite moment is the ending scene with Charlie Willy Wonka and Grandpa Joe because it’s the perfect ending because Charlie has made all the right choices and he is rewarded with the factory, also it saves his family from starving.

Zoey- One of my favorite moments in the play is during the boat ride when Veruca asks about the whip room and Wonka replies "Whipped cream isn't whipped cream unless it's been whipped with whips. Just like a poached egg isn't a poached egg unless it's been stolen from the woods in the dead of night". This moment gives insight into Wonka's sense of humor and never fails to make me laugh.

"I've long loved the Roald Dahl classic, and thought it would be the perfect fit within First Stage's 25th anniversary season," said Jeff Frank.

We know you all will love CHARLIE too!! 


Tickets for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY start at $13.  For tickets or more information visit


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The set is soo amazing!

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