TWINSBURG — A cast of thousands — or certainly of quite a few people — has spent the last few weeks getting ready to present Roald Dahl’s "Willy Wonka" as part of the Twinsburg Comunity Theatre.

The musical features newly created material that combines elements from Dahl's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

"The level of talent that tried out was just amazing," artistic director and Twinsburg resident Shonna Nitzel said. "Several hundred auditioned. It’s always difficult to cut people from the cast, but we have to do that because the competition is overwhelming."

Because it was so hard to find roles for all who auditioned, Nitzel and her experienced staff — including musical director Chelsea Selvaggio and producing director Jim Volkert — decided to double-cast several lead characters.

Each of the double-cast performers will perform three shows in their lead role, joining the ensemble for the other three performances.

The red cast will start the performance on opening night — Jan. 19 — and the blue cast will begin its run on Jan. 20 and close out the final show Jan. 28. 

Thus, performances 1, 3 and 5 are red cast performances, while shows 2, 4 and 6 are blue cast. All other performers are featured in all six shows.

The Jan. 19-20 and 26 shows begin at 7 p.m. and the Jan. 21 and 27-28 shows will see the curtain rise at 2 p.m. All performances are in Twinsburg High School’s auditorium, and the play is presented by Quest Financial & Insurance Services.

"Area residents are invited to join Charlie Bucket, Grandpa Joe, Willy Wonka and the full cast of beloved characters for a ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’ journey through the famous chocolate factory," said Nitzel.

Youngsters attending can walk through a life-sized candy land in the lobby before each performance, Nitzel said, and have photos taken with the costumed characters.

"It’s just a fun thing for the little kids while they’re waiting to see the show," she said.

Willie Wonka will be played by Matt Radicelli and Todd Ivan, with both appearing in alternate shows as Phineous Trout, while Charlie Bucket will be portrayed by Jacob Maluyao and Liam O’Hara.

"Matt runs Rock the House, an entertainment and production services company," said Nitzel. "He is one of four family members in the cast; his two daughters and a son are the others.

"Todd is a veteran of theater who also sings in a Cleveland area band. He’s a great singer and brings charm to the stage."

The Kijauska family also has four members in the cast — mom and dad and two daughters. "Those four all have been involved in the local theater for several years," Nitzel said.

"This theater is very family friendly. We had a family with five members in the cast of a previous play, but that family moved to Oregon."

Other double-cast roles include Carlene Kijauska and Sydney Goldstein as Violet Beauregarde; Olivia Sharp and Ava Krouse as Veruca Salt; Ellie Kramer and Emma Wess as Augusta Gloop; and Matthew Radicelli and Jonathan Rosenberg as Mike Teavee.

About three dozen others ranging from 7 to 67 years old are in the cast as, among others, Mrs. Gloop, Mr. Salt, the Nut Technician, hop-hop squirrels, oompa loompas, sugar babies and street kids.

Nitzel has been involved with the local theater for eight years. She has been an actor and musician for many years, appearing in her first play at age 5. She is a convention and meeting planner by trade, and she said, "I love both jobs."

"Willy Wonka" tickets can be purchased for $8 in advance at Twinsburg Community Center or online at www.twinsburgtheatre.com. The price increases at the door.

Twinsburg Community Theatre has connected local residents to the arts since 1996. Past shows include "Babes in Toyland," "Peter Pan," "Annie," "Oliver," "The LIttle Mermaid" and "Shrek: The Musical."

The theater’s summer production always features a younger cast — those in second to eighth grades — and Nitzel said this year’s production will be "Annie."

klahmers@recordpub.com

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