HAARTSVILLE, S.C. - Find out who has the golden ticket in Hartsville High School’s production of Roald Dahl’s ‘Willy Wonka’ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Center Theater.
Directed by Matthew Nelson, the musical will showcase the talents of nearly 100 students as they perform on stage, in the orchestra, backstage and other areas of the school production.
Tracee Auman is staging director, Cameron Watkins, musical director and Jennifer Pietrzak, art director. All volunteer their services for the annual HHS musical. Auditions were open to students in all grades.
Senior Cate Henderson is choreographer. She has studied dance for 13 years with the Brenda Cranford School of Dance in Hartsville. This is her second production with the school. She was in last year’s “Wizard of Oz.”
She said the most difficult part of preparing for the production has been to channel each character into their dancing.
“They are all my classmates,” she said “It is fun to get to work with them after school. I give them dance moves, and they take them and make them their own. They get in character.”
She said this is going to be a wonderful musical performance.
Watkins said he will be using the orchestra pit at the Center Theater, which isn’t used often. He has about 20 musicians in the production.
This way he said they get more students involved.
“They are more proud of what they are doing,” he said.
He said the students really take ownership of the production.
Senior Christopher Beasley stars in the role of Willy Wonka.
“It is so much fun,” he said. “When I was little, I’d watch the show over and over.”
Playing a character with so much sarcasm is fun, he said.
“I like being the bad guy,” he added.
This will be his fourth production with the school. He was in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” as a freshman, “Little Shop of Horrors” as a sophomore and last year in “Wizard of Oz.”
His favorite role was in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He played
“He was so mischievous and his songs were really good,” Beasley said.
He has also performed in Community Theater with the Hartsville Community Players in “On Golden Pond.”
Beasley said musicals are fun and whimsical. The hardest part is finding the right fit with the character and making it your own, he said.
He enjoys getting to know the other members of the cast and developing a bond with them.
Beasley said he was bit by the acting bug in eighth grade when his school held auditions for “Hairspray.”
“I enjoyed the movie so much that I just wanted to try out for a small role,” he said. “I got one of the leads.”
He said he enjoyed the attention, the applause and people congratulating him afterwards.
Rachel Moan is another major character in the high school production. She has the role of Charlie Bucket.
Moan said they just changed the role from “he” to “she.”
It’s a twist but Moan doesn’t see it as all that different.
Her biggest challenge has been with singing and dancing. She said last year she didn’t have to worry about those two aspects of a production in her role in the “Wizard of Oz.”
Although it has been a challenge, she has enjoyed the choreography and the blocking of scenes.
“That is when you are with everybody,” she said.
A senior, Moan said this is her third school performance. She was also in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in December with the Hartsville Community Players.
She said the elementary school that she attended had a theater program and that is how she got involved in acting.
Moan said this is a “kid’s play” and their hope is to entertain the audience. It is a musical for all ages, she said.
Lee Saxton is playing the role of Grandpa Joe. He is a junior at Hartsville High School, and this is his second performance with the school. Last year he was the scarecrow in “Wizard of Oz.”
He said his sister was trying out and encouraged him. She was Dorothy.
“I really liked it,” he said. “I made a lot of friends.”
Saxton danced for 15 years with Dance World in Hartsville.
He said the biggest challenge for him has been to keep his “voice on to sound older.” Also, he said a lot of his lines are very similar, and he has had to pick out which ones go where.
He enjoys that his performance makes others smile.
In addition to Beasley (Willy Wonka), Moan (Charlie Bucket) and Saxton (Grandpa Joe), the cast includes Nancy Jane Beasley (Mrs. Bucket), Logan Vlachoyannis (Mr. Bucket), Mia Kilpatrick (Grandma Josephine), JaDira Fields (Grandma Georgina), Deondre Mondesir (Grandpa George), Leland Saxton (Candy Man), Karson Byerly (Phineous Trout), Carl “CJ” Johnson (Augustus Gloop), Teagen Windham (Mrs. Gloop), Ellie Thompson (Veruca Salt), Lofton Jones ( Mr. Salt), Caroline Surrett (Violet Beauregarde), Naeleah Bell (Mrs. Beauregarde), Abraham Santana (Mike Teavee), Savannah Tew (Ms. Teavee), Aislinn Bramlett, Rashad Gee, Priscilla Starr, Russell Devine, Jakob Thompson, Mikaylah Wingate (kids); Leland Saxton, Russell Devine, Reginald Jett, Miyetta Coit, and Mikaylah Wingate (Cooks); Aislinn Bramlett, Rashad Gee, Leland Saxton, Logan Vlachoyannis, Mia Kilpatrick, JaDira Fields, Priscilla Star and Jakob Thompson (Oompa Loompas); Teagen Windham, Caroline Surrett, Naeleah Bell, Karson Byerly and Nancy Jane Beasley (Squirrels).
In the orchestra are Caysey Stewart and Lindsey McComber (flute), Jayla Patterson and Collin Creech (clarinet), Katherine Jordan (bassoon), Will Gabriel (alto saxophone), Davion Hawkins, (baritone saxophone), Beth Gabbey and Kenneth Wingate ( trumpet), Marlin Ketter (French horn), Jerome Richardson, Hunter Thompson and Daniel Sturgill (trombone), Kim Roberts (piano), DeQuincy Love (percussion), Jelaysha Brunson (violin) Kayla Hicks (cello) and Andrew Preston (bass).
Proceeds from the show will go towards future performances in the music program at Hartsville High.