VAIL --What happens when 56 of some of the valley's most creative and hard-working kids come together? You get a lively performance of the show Willy Wonka Jr., which shows Sunday and Monday evening at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail.
The cast includes students of various ages from many different schools within Eagle County.
Gretta Assaly founded the Children's Theater School about 20 years ago and is the director of the upcoming show. She has worked in a variety of places but said she loves coming to Vail in the summer (she lives in Wisconsin the rest of the year) because it is the most beautiful spot in the world.
Willy Wonka Jr. is based on the classic children's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl.
"This is a show for anyone who loves chocolate or has a sweet tooth," said Assaly.
Sharing their experiences with the world
After merely a month of rehearsals, the kids are ready to open the show, a schedule that is considered "professional," Assaly said.
"I have worked with kids in the professional theater and these kids could certainly challenge the kids who worked in New York as far as concentration, focus and real commitment to their job," said Assaly. "They are very serious about it but also have a great time."
Part of the student's love for doing theater is sharing their experiences with the world.
"I just like being with all the theater people because I feel like you can be whatever you want to be," said Amanda Lingle, ninth grader who plays Willy Wonka for one of the performances. "They are so much fun to be with because you can be as goofy as you want and they won't judge you."
The actors are so committed to theater that some of the children even gave up their family vacations so they could come to rehearsal.
"My favorite part of playing Charlie is being the last one standing after all the kids disappear," said Grant Maurer, fifth grader who will be playing Charlie for one night of the show.
One cast member, who was recently doing charity work in Cambodia, would even practice his lines while out of the country and then rehearse with other cast members via Skype.
Bring your imagination
Rehearsing for the show has given the young actors a lot of experience as well as a chance to use their imagination.
In the film, there are all sorts of exciting effects. Although the actors have a wonderful theater space, they do not have the benefits of having chocolate-making machines or equipment to make people fly.
However, the children put their heads together to create other ways of still making those effects happen, such as making clouds and a sky to make it seem as though the actors on stage are flying.
"It (the theater) is a special place where you can use your imagination and put it to work," Assaly said.
When describing how the cast and crew accomplished all of their tasks to make the show happen, hard work is an understatement.
To prepare for the performance, you have to choose a wonderful cast and figure out all of the music, scenes, costumes and more with the help of a great production staff.
"I don't know if it is partly because of their athletic training but these kids have incredible focus," Assaly said. "They learn and digest their material so quickly that it is a joy to work with them."
The whole world is represented in Willy Wonka Jr. So, whether you are craving chocolate or just want to enjoy the theater, bring your ticket and most importantly, do not forget your imagination.
"It has been a real fun and challenging opportunity to work with these kids," Assaly said. "They have worked together and really become a big theater family."
Mary Kelley Zeleskey is an intern at the Vail Daily and can be reached at 970-777-3120.