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Horton students hit the stage to perform Willy Wonka musical

Cast members of Horton’s performance of Willy Wonka include, in front, Keira Melanson. In the middle row, from left, are Jilly Richard, Ethan VanMeekeren, Kaela Biro, Abbey MacEachern, Nathaniel Maxner and Mary Cormier. In back are Angus Bauer, Heidi Maxner, Max Miller, Samantha Merrill, Robyn Bertrand, Celeste Mol, Jena Cook, Ethan Bullerwell, Shannon Larkin, Geo Chebl, Malvika Jha, Keigan Richard, Estee Gerritts, Delila Hubley, Anya denHartog, and Clotilde Jobart.
Cast members of Horton’s performance of Willy Wonka include, in front, Keira Melanson. In the middle row, from left, are Jilly Richard, Ethan VanMeekeren, Kaela Biro, Abbey MacEachern, Nathaniel Maxner and Mary Cormier. In back are Angus Bauer, Heidi Maxner, Max Miller, Samantha Merrill, Robyn Bertrand, Celeste Mol, Jena Cook, Ethan Bullerwell, Shannon Larkin, Geo Chebl, Malvika Jha, Keigan Richard, Estee Gerritts, Delila Hubley, Anya denHartog, and Clotilde Jobart. - Submitted

GREENWICH, NS - When students hit the stage at Horton’s performance Centre this weekend, it will be the culmination of months of hard work.

Auditions began in the fall to cast Horton High School’s musical, Willy Wonka, with the student actors receiving scripts just before Christmas and rehearsals getting underway early in the new year, says drama teacher Natalie MacIsaac.

And there’s no mistaking the pride in MacIsaac’s voice when she talks about the 50 or so actors, musicians and stage crew that are taking part in this year’s production.

“How proud am I? I’d say a 20 out of 10,” she says with a chuckle.

Have no doubt, there’s a lot that goes into putting on a musical like this one.

“There’s just so much for them to remember,” she said. “Their lines, sure, but there’s so much music, choreography, and a lot of the music is pretty complicated. The dedication these students put into this is amazing.”

Willy Wonka, she says, seemed like the perfect play for this group of students.

“When we’re choosing a script, we try to select something based on our students – we know who the students are who might be interested and we try to have a variety of different performances,” she said.

Based on elements of both Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Favroty and the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the musical is a fun play, she says, and was exactly what the students needed.

“It seemed like a really fun, uplifting story,” she said. “We could all use an injection of humour and colour and excitement into our lives.”

Ben Nickerson plays Willy Wonka, and brings with him a host of experience.

“Folks know him from a variety of other performances – he’s heavily involved in dinner theatre, and I think he’s been in some Quick as a Wink performances as well,” MacIsaac said. “He’s definitely not a newbie on stage.”

Horton will bring a twist to the traditional Willy Wonka story with Kiera Melanson starring as Charlie.

“We’ve got a girl Charlie – we’re doing a little gender shift. We call her our candy girl. We’ve got four fabulous students playing her grandparents and they have some pretty funny scenes,” MacIsaac said.

“All of our students are absolute rock stars on stage.”

Audiences can expect to see some special treats at the performance, thanks in part to Phantom FX, which signed on to help build set pieces and do makeup for the show.

“Our props are outstanding – they really raised the wow factor, and it really makes the students feel like they’re part of something special,” MacIsaac said.

Putting on a musical is no easy task, she says, acknowledging that what audiences see on stage is only a small portion of the work that goes on.

“I’m as impressed with the students on our tech crew and musicians as much as the people on stage,” she says.

But it’s the community support, she says, that really wows her.

“We’ve got great student talent and, of course, Phantom FX, but the staff and the community is just amazing,” MacIsaac said. “People have been involved over the years with the musicals since their children went through Horton, but we even have people who don’t have children at the school anymore who volunteered to build sets. It really takes a village – it’s a hugely collaborative effort.”

If you go: Performances will be held on April 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), with matinees on April 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. (doors open at 1:30 p.m.) at the Horton performance centre. Tickets can be purchased in advance, with seat selection, via Ticketpro.ca or at the door. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors or $15 for adults.

Did you know?

Stage director is AVRSB speech language pathologist Thea Burton; music director is Horton music teacher Kay Greene, and rounding out the production team is Horton drama teacher Natalie MacIsaac.

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