Watch Willy Wonka Jr. |

Watch Willy Wonka Jr.

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
HL willy wonka 1 KA 08-11-08

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” The 1971 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” movie had the power to enchant ” and creep out” entire generations. More than just an ode to sweets, the story touched on such weighty issues as the gap between the social classes (Charlie could barely afford a chocolate bar), the perils of industrialization (just how much were those Oompa- Loompas being paid?) and a pervading greed punishable by transformation into blueberry.

As with all popular classics, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” ” which was first a novel by Roald Dahl ” returned to the theater in 2005, this time in an animated form starring Johnny Depp.

The lasting appeal of the story is also evident in its latest incarnation: A children’s theater production called “Willy Wonka Jr.”

The Vail Performing Arts Academy will perform that show tonight and Saturday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. Starring 80 local youths between the ages of eight and 18, the show celebrates the timeless story about a famous candy man’s quest to find an heir.

Annah Scully, executive producer of the Vail Performing Arts Academy, said “Willy Wonka Jr.” is the most extensive production the theater group has ever taken on.

“The costumes, the set ” everything is bigger,” she said. “You will see giant candy and even a huge bug. We are especially thrilled to see students we have worked with over many years blossoming into pros and coming into their own.”

Indeed, many people remember Sean Pack from his Battle Mountain High School performances as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” and The Boogie Man in “The Boogie Man.”

Now 18 and headed to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to study vocal performance, Pack served as musical director for “Willy Wonka Jr.” He worked with children on classic songs like “The Candy Man” and “I Want it Now.”

“It’s amazing when you hear 80 kids singing the correct notes on key and in beautiful harmonies,” he said. “It makes my heart jump and it gives me the tingles.”

Molly Allard, a longtime member of the Vail Youth Ballet who heads to Oklahoma City University this month to study dance, helped children learn the dances.

“It’s nice because they look up to you and they’re always excited to see you in the morning,” she said.

Playing Willy Wonka will be Ian Dunlevie, who departs for St. John’s College in Santa Fe later this month.

The Vail Performing Arts Academy is a community group that has been putting on shows for 12 years. Children have been rehearsing “Willy Wonka Jr.” for four intensive weeks.

Vail resident Thomas Walsh, who plays Charlie, cites the scene in which he finds the golden ticket as his favorite.

“My character is different from me because he’s more innocent than I am,” the 13-year-old said. “He’s very sweet and kind ” which I hope I am ” but he doesn’t have anything in the world, so he makes everything happy to him, which is hard because you have to dig deep inside yourself to bring it out.”

Beaver Creek resident Annie Bronfman, 11, said she puts a modern twist on Veruca Salt.

“I get into my character by thinking, ‘snobby, obnoxious, not afraid of anything,’ and that kind of helps,” she said. “I think of movie actors who have played the roles.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or

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