When the curtain rises on “Willy Wonka” this Friday and Saturday (March 29 and 30), it will be the culmination of a true community effort.
It takes a special kind of person to stage an elementary school show. Second grade teacher Katie Bloom was just back from maternity leave. But she’s a theater veteran — from age 8 through Hofstra University — and hey, there’s a special kind of people known as “show people.”
In less than a month Bloom helped form the Saugatuck Theater Club. Casting began. Anyone who tried out was promised at least a small part.
She hoped for enough children to fill every role. She got 120.
That number was impressive. The talent: even more so.
Some of the “Willy Wonka” leads.
The 3 rounds of callbacks demonstrated, Bloom says, how much the SES students wanted the program.
Bloom was aided by an army of parents. Jen Berniker, Miriam Young and Carole Chinn led the charge. Working with principal Beth Messler, they created a Movie Night fundraiser.
John and Pam Nunziato — parents of one of the leads — own a branding and design firm. They created Wonka and STC logos, developed projection backdrops (parents took up a collection to buy the screen), signage, Wonka Bars and a playbill.
The “Willy Wonka” Imagination Room.
The Caricato family donated printing costs. The Greelys spent hours making enormous sets. Melissa Crouch Chang designed and sewed costumes for every cast member (including 60 Oompa Loompas).
Other parents supervised rehearsals, worked backstage or simply spread the word.
Middle school youngsters helped with choreography, stage management, lighting and sound.
Professional photographer/SES dad John Videler gifted every cast member with a head shot.
Then there was Saugatuck El mom Megan Bolan. A Broadway performer, teacher and choreographer, she worked with the cast on major numbers.
The entire school got in the spirit. Guess what book they chose for their annual “One Book, Two Schools” event? And thanks to the art department, “candy art” now blankets the halls.
“This has engaged faculty, students and parents,” says principal Messler. “It’s created new opportunities for our community to connect with one another. It’s been a one-of-a-kind experience.”
The show is just under an hour (very kid-friendly!).
Of course, there will be chocolate. Doors open 45 minutes early, so theater-goers can visit the candy shop (featuring hand-made Wonka Bars, commissioned by a local chocolatier).
Five lucky winners at each show will open their bars to find a golden ticket. One gets a scrumpdiddlyumptious grand prize.
So what will the Saugatuck Theater Club do for an encore?
I have no idea. But they’re already making plans for next year.
(“Willy Wonka” will be performed Friday, March 29 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, March 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 each; click here to order.)
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