Play teaches lessons, taps the imagination

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Key points "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" 7 p.m. today Steamboat Springs Middle School cafetorium $5

If you've only seen the movie, you haven't seen "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

The play follows the original story written by Roald Dahl. The characters learn valuable life lessons from Willie Wonka without getting hurt (as they do in the movie).

Like the movie, Willy Wonka announces that five children will find golden tickets hidden in the wrappers of Willie Wonka candy bars. Those ticket-holders will be given a tour of the closed and secretive candy factory.

The lead character, Charlie Bucket (played by Ian Noble), is an incredibly poor boy who lives next to the factory. He gets one candy bar a year for his birthday. If you want to know the rest, you'll have to go to Steamboat Springs Middle School tonight.

"This is a great family show," said Steamboat Springs Middle School drama instructor Rusty De Lucia. "If you want your imaginations to go wild, all you have to do is see the incredible imaginations on our middle school kids."

De Lucia chose "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" because it is age appropriate, and there was a part for everyone.

"I don't believe in turning kids away who want to be in the play," she said. "I knew I could make as many oompa loompas as possible."

The play was a collaborative project, involving the entire school.

Johnny Walker's woodshop class made all the sets for the play, and refreshments will be contributed by the middle school's Basic Life Training class. Two Americorps volunteers, Alia Albertowicz and Melissa Calhoon, who are assigned to the school as mentors, joined the effort as assistant director and choreographer, respectively.

Eighth-grader Emily Stout took the part of the narrator, which she said was originally "flat and boring." De Lucia let her improvise with the lines to make it more interesting.

The cast of 60 children is made of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

The lead parts traditionally go to eighth-graders -- Willy Wonka is played by eighth-grader Kevin Stokes -- but this year, one of the leads went to sixth-grader Patrick Weston who plays Mike Teavee, a child addicted to TV.

The students have been practicing every weekday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. since February.

Eighth-grader Jamie Gay plays Charlie Bucket's grandmother. She said the hardest part was juggling track practice and the play.

"Once track ended, the hardest part was sitting in that scary creaky bed (on stage)," she said. Gay has been in two other SSMS plays.

"I like being somebody else and not being an eighth-grader for an hour and a half," she said.

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