‘Willy Wonka’ Comes to Pierson Middle School Stage

Willy Wonka’s “Golden Ticket” winners and their parents are, from left to right, Genevieve Roeloffs as Mrs. Gloop, Cali Wilson as Augustus Gloop, Liam McSweeney as Mr. Salt, Shayla Lopez as Veruca Salt, Carter Kleinsmith as Grandpa Joe, Annie Farnam as Charlie Bucket, Ravenel Ellis as Mrs. Beauregarde, Caroline McGuire as Violet Beauregarde, Riley Roesel as Mrs. Teevee and Tucker Kinney as Mike Teevey. Michael Heller photo

A seasoned Pierson Middle School thespian leads a cast filled with fresh faces as the drama club takes on “Willy Wonka” as its annual musical production.

The show opens on Thursday, January 31, at 7 p.m., with performances on February 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. and February 3 at 2 p.m.

Eighth grader Zoe Richardson stepped into the title role of “Willy Wonka” after playing supporting characters in “Seussical” last year and “The Little Mermaid” the year before that. She said she is having a lot of fun playing the kooky Wonka, having been inspired by the late Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the character in the 1971 film, which was based on the 1964 book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. Zoe also said she likes the show’s positive message.

“There are bits where it kind of interacts with the audience, telling them to be a good person, use their imagination and not let that be taken out of them when they’re an adult,” she said. “It’s good for all ages because it gives this message to be childlike but still have that bit of seriousness.”

Bethany Dellapolla, the director and choreographer, said Zoe is “a really quirky, interesting actor, and she brings that to Wonka.”

“She’s always surprising me with her choices,” Ms. Dellapolla said. “…I knew once she read and sang in the audition that this was her role. She’s going to really surprise people, and I can’t wait.”

Zoe, Riley Roesel (“Mrs. Teevee”) and Genevieve Roeloffs (“Mrs. Gloop”) are the only eighth graders in the show. Ms. Dellapolla has other students — including Annie Farnam, the seventh-grader who has been cast in another leading role, “Charlie Bucket” — who are being trained to become the future of the Pierson theater program.

“Kids who are doing their first show — that’s really exciting for me to work with,” she said.

The cast is working hard and perfecting their performance every day. Ms. Dellapolla said the cast is living up to the “big and iconic characters” people already know.

“Everytime I think of the songs ‘Pure Imagination’ and ‘Golden Ticket’ my heart is just so happy,” she said.

Ms. Dellapolla credited Melissa Luppi, producer and costume designer, with helping her come up with some of the “spectacles” in the show, which she didn’t want to spoil for audiences.

She said said one reason she picked the show this year is because it’s uplifting.

“It makes everyone happy,” Ms. Dellapolla said. “We need some happiness now, you know?”

To reserve tickets, which are $10 each, send an email with the subject line “Tickets” to agalanty@sagharborschools.org. Tickets must then be paid for and picked up between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. within three days of ordering; students may pick up tickets during lunch periods or Academic Support. Ticket emails sent on Saturday and Sunday will not be read; tickets may be available at the door for those shows. Doors will open half an hour before each show for any available tickets. For more information, visit sagharborschools.org.