Don’t miss ‘Willy Wonka Jr.’ at Manistee High School


MANISTEE — Those hoping to find themselves in a world of pure imagination need look no further than the auditorium at Manistee Middle High School this weekend.

Manistee Middle High School’s drama program is just days away from premiering its production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” by Roald Dahl, with the opening performance scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.

Sophomore Jack O’Donnell, who plays Charlie, said “Willy Wonka Jr.” is a slightly stripped down version of the original musical, which follows candy maker Willy Wonka as he holds a contest by hiding golden tickets inside five of his candy bars. Those who find the tickets win a free tour of his factory and a lifetime supply of candy.

“It’s just an abbreviated version – it’s not the length of a full play,” he said. “We thought we didn’t even have an intermission, but we’re going to have it. It’s just a shorter version of the original story.”

Theater manager Amanda Feyen said everyone is kicking into high gear to ensure performances go off without a hitch.

“It’s still a little scary at this point, but thank goodness I’ve been doing this for a few years now. You know it’s going to fall into place, because the anticipation is starting to get them excited,” she said. declared. “…There are parts that look really good, and parts that need reworking and tweaking. The scenery is starting to fall into place and that’s getting the kids excited too. last little burst of energy. working really hard last week.”

Feyen said the students made up for lost time due to snow days and other interruptions.

“We’ve had a lot of snow days and we’ve had people in quarantine or because they tested positive for COVID. I told them they weren’t allowed to get sick anymore because we need that. ‘they’re all here for the show,” she said with a laugh. “We had a lot of catching up because people missed rehearsals for things like that. … We missed a lot of those rehearsals because we’ve had about six days of snow since Christmas.”

Students will no longer have to worry about playing while wearing face masks, as the Manistee Area Public Schools Board voted to make masks optional at a special meeting on Feb. 23.

“It was a big relief for me because we were wondering how it was going to work all the time. It was a big relief that they could sing and be maskless while they performed,” Feyen said. “And also, just to see the facial expressions. When you’re playing, you want to be able to react to things or make faces and stuff like that, so that was a very exciting announcement for us.”

Sixth grader Natalie Cameron, who plays Mr Bucket in the musical, said everyone’s hard work is starting to pay off as the show draws closer.

“It’s going really well. Some people pick up the choreography and the lines very quickly,” she said. “I’m surprised how well I’m doing because it’s my first big thing I’ve done. People are learning choreography well and there are a lot of lifts and people are doing them well.”

Cameron said her involvement in acting helps her come out of her shell.

“I love everything. It lets me express how I love to sing and stuff like that,” she said. “When I was younger I was very shy, so now this piece helps me get out of my comfort zone a bit.”

Feyen said the theater program has lost a lot of students over the past two years, but a new generation of students has sprung up to fill the void.

“It was around this time two years ago that we were preparing for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ when it all came to a halt, so a lot of these kids are new to musical theatre,” he said. she stated. “We’ve got a ton of middle schoolers…and then a handful of high schoolers who’ve done it before. In total, between the stage crew and the students on stage, we’ve got about 40 students involved, which is really awesome. They’ I run everything behind the scenes, so it’s really fun to see them taking ownership of the show as well.”

O’Donnell said he had fun preparing to take the stage.

“I really like the piece, going to rehearsals and the choreography. It’s a really nice piece – I like doing it,” he said. “…It was just really nice. …I do a lot of stuff after school, but luckily I’m in a position where I’ve played a leading role before, so I got into it. a little bit used to it, which is nice. I think it’s definitely falling into place and I think it’s going to be a good show.

March is National Reading Month, and Feyen said the musical is used to motivate young students to pick up a book.

“Kennedy and Jefferson Elementary can come on Thursday to get a little preview of the show to get them excited,” she said. “It’s a musical based on a book, so it was a really fun way to fit it into kids’ reading month. If you buy a candy bar at the door for $5, you might be one of the lucky winners of the golden ticket to win Roald Dahl books.

“We have a bag we created with books by Roald Dahhl, and as always, we have our cast-signed poster that you could win if you’re a lucky golden ticket winner,” Feyen continued. “So you might win a golden ticket, but if you don’t, you still get the chocolate.”

The Manistee Middle High School production of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Junior” will premiere at 7 p.m. on March 11 and 12 and at 2 p.m. on March 12 and 13. Tickets are available online at or at the door for $12. for adults and $7 for students and seniors.

Feyen said the theater program offers reserved seating. Seats in the central section may be reserved for those who order tickets online.

“These tickets will still be available at the door, but we thought some people really wanted to make sure they got the front seat or the middle seat, so we’re trying that,” she said. “There’s no price difference, especially since it’s the first time we’ve tried this. We just thought we’d try it. They can buy these tickets online if they want to get a reserve seat before we have him at the door.”


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