This weekend, students at Dempsey Middle School will take audiences to a world of pure imagination as they perform “Willy Wonka Jr.”
Students have been preparing and rehearsing for months and will perform the show on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale at bit.ly/DempseyDrama.
Director Jennifer Ruhlen said the show has been on the shortlist for the Dempsey theater department for years, and this year was the perfect year to perform it.
“We have a lot of talent at Dempsey, and ‘Willy Wonka’ allows for a lot of kids to have their time on the stage and in the spotlight,” Ruhlen said.
The show is based on the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” film, Ruhlen added, but it also closely follows the book and the film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Ruhlen said the show presented a set of challenges for the cast and crew.
“Making a character blow up like a blueberry, shrinking a character down to doll size, etc,” Ruhlen said. “It’s really given our technical and directing team some hurdles, but we’ve loved every minute of it!”
Ebony Marshall, an eighth grader who plays the titular Willy Wonka, said she’s “very grateful” for the part during her last year of drama at Dempsey.
“I’m just very excited,” Ebony said. “Drama means a lot to me, and I’m very glad I got this part. It’s an amazing role. I turned it into my version of it. I’m just very grateful for the directors and everybody that made this happen.”
Ebony said she has enjoyed preparing for the show but she’s slightly nervous as the show’s debut nears.
“I am a little nervous because it’s my last year, and I really want to make it count,” Ebony said. “I’m nervous, but I know it’ll be fine in the end.”
Lily Shireman, an eighth grader who plays Ms. Buckets, an overworked but optimistic character, said, “It’s been really fun. It’s been tiring but still fun. It helps to channel that (tiredness) because she’s such a hard working mom, but at the same time, she’s such a upbeat character that always tries to bring sunshine into the situation.”
Lily said she has enjoyed working with her fellow cast members on the show.
“If I feel like scared about something, then they’ll help you not be scared about it,” she said. “It’s my first time having a solo or a whole bunch of lines. It can be stressful, but I feel so well prepared.”
Eighth grader Kiri Iannetta, who plays one of the iconic Oompa Loompas in the show, said she wasn’t expecting to play this part but has enjoyed learning the role.
“It’s been pretty fun,” Kiri said. “The part was really fun to play. I’m nervous because I haven’t had a lot of speaking parts before. … I like the (cast and crew), everyone has been really friendly, and it’s turning out to be a good show.”
Samuel Breglia, an eighth grader who plays Grandpa Joe in the show, said he “thoroughly enjoyed” the character.
“It’s a great way to connect to the other cast members,” he said. “It’s a fun part. It’s a very fun thing just to be on stage a lot and develop a bond with them.”
Samuel is a veteran of theater at Dempsey and said Grandpa Joe is his favorite part so far, even more than The Wizard in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“(It’s been my) favorite part so far just because of the cast and the show around it,” Samuel said. “Everyone has been so positive and supportive. I feel like we’re all a little nervous, but I feel like we’ve done so well that it’s hard not to be excited.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.