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Student production of 'Willy Wonka' to open April 19

Oompa Loompa, Dom Pah Dee Doo

Wonka’s coming to a stage near you!

Oompa Loompa, Doom Pah Dee Dah

Come see a show, don’t travel too far!

On Friday, April 19, my seventh production as PR-B’s drama director will open to the public. This year we proudly present Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” based on the popular children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Pine River-Backus High School has been offering the opportunity for students in grades 7-12 to be part of the annual spring musical since 2001. The first show that was performed for audiences was “Godspell.” Since then audiences have been delighted with such shows as “Westside Story,” “The Music Man,” “Annie,” “Cinderella,” “Grease” and “Footloose.”

In 2006, I was flipping through the Pine River Journal and was looking at the employment ads when I saw the posting for drama director. It began my wheels turning. I had been on the stage as an actor in a few high school productions in my hometown of Little Falls and did some community theater there and in St. Cloud.

I had also served as an assistant director to a couple of community theater groups. After talking things over with my husband, Isaak, a teacher at PR-B, we both agreed that this would be a good fit for me. So I sent in an application and was hired a few weeks later.

What an honor and privilege it has been to work with the talented students, staff and musicians in our community. Each year we have 30 or more students audition for roles in the musical and each student is guaranteed to get a part. We also have students who work as part of our tech crew designing sets, collecting props and running lights and sounds. Our pit orchestra is made up of students as well as members of the community.

The best thing about directing is watching students grow and develop their acting skills and abilities. The skills that they learn through team building, improv, public speaking and characterization can be applied to different areas of their lives far beyond their high school careers.

I am like a proud mother hen watching them during performances. You can often hear me cheering and clapping loudly back at the light booth. Some students come into auditions their first year quieter than church mice with little confidence in their abilities. After they spend a few months working, laughing and forming a common bond, they begin to blossom — and that is where the magic happens.

As a special treat for audiences, this year we will have a Sweet Shoppe open during intermission. Each patron who purchases a treat will receive a Golden Ticket and a chance for a special prize. We also have a few surprises up our sleeve during the show!

Performances of “Willy Wonka” will be held on April 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. and April 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door a half-hour prior to showtime. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

(Jennifer Anderson is the PR-B High School drama director.)