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Warroad Summer Theater Presents Willy Wonka Jr.

by Laurel Latham

Warroad Summer Theater's children's group, the Popcorn Players, have been busy rehearsing their parts in Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka JR. theater production based on the 1964 children's book, "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory". Ronald Dahl's timeless story of the world famous candy man, Willy Wonka, and his quest to find an heir, features enchanting songs from the 1971 film, with Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka, in addition to several fun new songs.

The film tells the story of a poor child named Charlie Bucket who, upon finding a Golden Ticket in a chocolate bar, wins a chance to visit Willy Wonka's chocolate factory along with four other children. The play will be held at the Warroad High School Mini Theatre, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, June 28-30 at 6 p.m. and Saturday July 1 at 10 a.m.

"We practiced Monday through Friday, from 12-5 p.m. for the first two weeks in June," reports Willy Wonka JR. Director, Adrianna Korgel. "This week we practiced from 1-3:30 p.m., and next week we are running the show from 5-7:30 p.m. The costumes should arrive soon for the dress rehearsal. Next week we will make sure the play goes smoothly and we have all the props in place."

This is the third summer Adrianna Korgel, a middle-school and elementary teacher in Warren, has directed the Popcorn Players.

"I live in Thief River Falls, but I come home in the summer," explained Adrianna. "I've always wanted to be a teacher. Although I was better in math and science, my favorite classes were English classes taught by Rose McDonald and Brenlee DeFelice. There are about forty kids in the cast of Willy Wonka JR. from Warroad, Roseau, Pencer, Baudette and Roosevelt."

"Working with these kids is a fun and exciting experience!" exclaims Adrianna. "We have a wide variety of ages, but all the kids get along and have fun together. It's a high energy group so they are always talking, dancing and playing games on their break. A lot of the kids hang out after practice as well. I am so grateful to have all of them. They are truly meant for the stage and I'm glad I am able to direct them!"

Levi Dieter who has been in eight or nine previous theater productions plays Willy Wonka. When asked how he is similar and different to the character, Willy Wonka, Levi gives the question serious thought.

“I am like my character in the fact that I am goofy and silly and love having a good time,” said Levi. “I am not like my character because I don’t own a factory and I’m not as crafty as him. I love everything about theater and the whole shabam. I may think about doing theater in college, I don’t know yet.”

“Charlie is one of the good ones,” said Chloe Brynteson, when asked how she is similar to her character, Charlie Bucket. “He tells the truth. I like telling the truth. It was a learned skill. I think it is for everyone. I’m a good person, at least I hope so. I’ve been in a lot of plays. I started when I was nine. I don’t really aspire to be an actor. It would be fun to be on Broadway or film a TV show or movie, but for me taking part in theater is more of a hobby.”

“I like the character I’m playing, Mrs. Gloop,” said Katherine Kennedy. “She sings a very hard song with alot of vocal difficulties. I have to sing with a slight German accent. I find that a lot of fun. It’s something I haven’t done before. I’ve been in way too many plays to ever count. I’ve been involved in theater since I was very young. I enjoy taking part in theater productions because it’s such a fun environment. You make so many friends and connections. It’s just a great overall experience and helps kids become extroverts. I’m a huge extrovert because of theater. I hope to minor in theater when I enter college.”

Jagger Burroughs, who plays Mr. Salt points out an obvious difference between himself and his character.

“I’m not rich,” said Jagger with a comedic look. “I enjoy taking part in theater productions because all the people are really nice. I’ve been in plays for three years and it’s really fun.”

“I think my character is a good character because he doesn’t have many words, yet he's a great main character,” explained Daxton Menlove. “I’m similar to my character because we are both short and we both like chocolate. I’m different from my character because I’m young and Grandpa Joe is old. Grandpa Joe hunches over a little. This is my first play. I enjoy taking part in theater productions because my friends are there.”

“I like my character, Augustus Gloop,” said Rylin Pederson. “He’s cool, especially when he falls in the river. He’s funny. I’ve been in four plays, three with speaking parts. I like to be in a theater production because it’s fun and something to do.”

“The character I play is Phineous Trout,” said Taylor Yanok. “One of my favorite things about Popcorn Players is that it's fun. It’s pretty easy and fun to hangout with other people.”

WST History

“Warroad Summer Theater officially began in 1981, when we became a nonprofit and bylaws were written,” explained Ron Anderson. “The previous year there was a theater production called Harvey, a play about Elwood P. Dowd, based on the character played by Jimmy Stewart, whose best friend was an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey. The play Harvey was produced by a couple guys who I think were named Alfred and Tom. After the play, someone absconded with the money and disappeared. The following year the cast of Harvey organized to become Warroad Summer Theater. I remember Liz Hardwick helped write the bylaws.

“The 1981 Warroad Summer Theater productions were “I Do, I Do”, “I Remember Mama”, “The Sound Of Music”, “Butterflies Are Free”, and “Tribute”. Four or five plays were held every summer from then on, except for 2020 due to Covid.

“My wife, Jill Anderson, recruited me in the mid-nineties to build and haul sets and run the lighting. Jim Provence was tech director, but took a few years off when his kids were young. Jim was tech director of this year’s sold out spring play “Kold Radio”. He is also tech director of Willy Wonka Jr. and the upcoming musical “Quilters”. Popcorn Players, Warroad Summer Theater children’s group, was first organized in 1991 by Julie Jones, Merle Pratt, and Lee Barnum, a teacher from Grand Forks. Kids 17 and under are eligible to take part in Popcorn Players theater productions, once they are old enough to read.

Reserve Willy Wonka JR. Tickets

“Willy Wonka Jr. is bound to be a sold out production,” continued Ron Anderson. “Warroad High School Theater holds 175 people and with such a large cast and so many parents and grandparents attending, I don’t think there will be many empty seats. That’s why we added an extra show on Saturday morning.”

Reserve Willy Wonka JR. theater production tickets on the website, or email [email protected] or call 218-242-3476. Tickets are $8 each.


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