April 17, 2024

East Union to present ‘Willy Wonka Jr.’

The cast of "Willy Wonka Jr.," some in costume. FRONT ROW: Vanessa Long (Mrs. Beauregarde), Elizabeth Folk (Violet Beauregarde), Colton England (Mr. Salt). BACK ROW: Peyton Cunningham (Grandma Josephine), Riley Cheers (Mrs. Bucket), Titus Stover (Mr. Bucket), Rae Elben (Willy Wonka), Reese Guiter (Veruca Salt).

AFTON - East Union students, staff, and a few alumni will present their school musical, “Willy Wonka Jr.” Saturday, April 6.

The story of Willy Wonka, Charlie and a magnificent chocolate factory have gone through many interpretations from Roald Dahl’s original children’s story. Several films have been produced including “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in 1971 starring Gene Wilder and most recently in 2023 with “Wonka” starring Timothée Chalamet.

East Union’s show should provide an exciting time for families and the community. This school produces a musical once a year, with this year incorporating the family-friendly story. Many of the cast members describe the show as “fun” and “crazy.” Bubble machines, vibrant color and musical sequences will bring an uplifting vibe to the show.

The production doesn’t just represent the high school students, but from students, staff and alumni from the East Union community. The main cast includes students from various grades and ages, all working together. It is one of the largest casts East Union has used for a stage production.

Robin McNutt's fourth-grade class was invited to be "Oompa-Loompas."

Leading the cast is Willy Wonka, played by Rae Elben. He describes Wonka as a “troublemaker” but also having a joyous side to him, filled with passion for his eccentric career.

“He’s so full of love and passion for everything that he does,” he said. “If it weren’t for that, he wouldn’t make candy.”

One of the cast members is fifth-grader Charlie Shawley, playing the role of Charlie Bucket. Despite his youth, he’s been active as a prominent member of the cast.

The director of the production and music teacher for East Union, Wes Clark, described Shawley’s talent while practicing one of the sequences of the play where Shawley uses a trampoline.

“He is a state champion level junior wrestler,” said Clark. “He got on there and started bouncing and singing his song, he’s an athlete, he can handle it.”

Fourth-graders from Robin McNutt’s class have been given the option to sing and dance as Oompa-Loompas, the wise servants to the chocolate factory.

The set was built as a collaboration with the Ag Department of East Union, providing the production with multiple pieces of the set, a box with lights labelled with names of the characters and a large tin labelled with “fizzy lifting drink,” one of the fictional confectionaries of Wonka’s chocolate factory.

The production is directed by Wes Clark. Main cast includes Willy Wonka and the Candyman (Rae Elben); Charlie Bucket (Charlie Shawley); Grandpa Joe (Zach Clear); Augustus Gloop (Camerion Hamilton); Mrs. Gloop (Kaitlynn Hamilton); Violet Beauregarde (Elizabeth Folk); Mrs. Beauregarde (Vanessa Long); Veruca Salt (Reese Guiter); Mr. Salt (Colton England); Mike Tevee (Bentley Huntington); Ms. Tevee (Clarissa McCulough); Mr. Bucket (Titus Stover); Mrs. Bucket (Riley Cheers); Grandpa George (Jesse White); Grandma Georgina (Valerie White); Grandma Josephina (Peyton Cunninghma); James (Zaylen Clear) and Matilda (Abi Posey).

East Union’s “Willy Wonka Jr.” production will start at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, April 6 in the East Union auditorium.

Nick Pauly

News Reporter for Creston News Advertiser. Raised and matured in the state of Iowa, Nick Pauly developed a love for all forms of media, from books and movies to emerging forms of media such as video games and livestreaming.