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Atomic City Children’s Theater to present a sweet musical

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By Special to the Monitor

Atomic City Children’s Theater presents “Willy Wonka Junior” this weekend at Duane W. Smith Auditorium. Admission is free to the public and there will be free surprises offered to the first 500 audience members. There will also be five Golden Tickets hidden among the programs, which can be redeemed for a Wonka Chocolate bar.

“Willy Wonka Junior” is a one-act musical based upon Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and the 1971 movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” “Willy Wonka Junior” features many of the songs from the movie, as well as some new songs written especially for this show. Of course, there will be Oompa-Loompas singing, dancing and joking their way through the show.

ACCT’s co-directors, Julia Fair and Daren Savage, agree that working with many of the students from last year’s two successful runs of “The Music Man” as well as many newcomers to the musical program has been a fantastic experience.

Fair recalls last year she and Savage wished they could have combined the kids from both “Music Man” casts. They agreed it would have created a good show. “All of the kids last year were so very talented and to get the opportunity to have so many of them in one cast is like a dream come true,” Fair said. “They’re having a lot of fun together, seeing old friends, meeting new friends, all while refining the skills they learned last year.”

Savage added, “It was a bit surreal at first having many of the cast members from both runs of ‘Music Man’ in the same room and watching the kids recount their individual experiences performing the same parts from two different runs of the same show. I had a lot of fun introducing Mrs. Shinn (Annie Romero, who plays television reporter Phineous Trout in “Willy Wonka”) to Mrs. Shinn (Emma McKinley, who plays Mrs. Beauregarde in “Willy Wonka”).

It was interesting to watch how quickly the kids from different schools, who had never met before this show, became friends. Daniel Sarrao from Barranca, who plays Charlie Bucket and Derek Selvage, from Piñon, who plays Grandpa Joe, spent much of their off-time laughing and joking.”

Fair realized that for some of the students like Devon McCleskey, who plays Willy Wonka, this would be their last year at the elementary schools. On the bright side she said,

“With ACCT’s expansion this year into the middle school, Daren and I will have the opportunity to continue working with this talented group next year.”

Fair adds, “Devon is every music teacher’s dream student. Not only is he a talented singer and musician, but he is a very dedicated student. He is always in the music room singing or playing one of our many instruments.”

Savage noted that Devon is one of his dance students as well, taking his boys’/men’s ballet class and partnering at the New Mexico Dance Theater studios. “Devon could be a very successful dancer if that’s the path he chooses to take,” he said.

“Willy Wonka Junior” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and at 3 p.m. Saturday.