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St. Francis bucks the spring musical trend, premiers Willy Wonka Nov. 3

By October 19, 2010

Arts and entertainment columnist

St. Francis High School brings innovation to the fore once more with its production of ÒWilly Wonka: The Musical,” opening Nov. 3 and runing through Nov. 13.The all-girls Catholic high school, which has developed a national reputation for excellence in the arts, draws students from the entire region: Sacramento, El Dorado Hills, Auburn, Woodland, even Fairfield. It regularly enlists boys to try out for male roles in its performing arts productions.

In a pursuit of faith, excellence, leadership and service, the school seems to be stepping out to try something rather daring this season Ñ performing a musical.While this may not seem particularly remarkable on the surface, it flies in the face of conventional wisdom: The school usually performs a musical in the spring, allowing judges for the Elly awards to view all of the plays in each category, evaluate performances and cast ballots.

St. Francis has garnered its fair share of Ellys in past years. By switching its schedule, it runs the risk of being forgotten in the running with judges. However, the school is taking the view that there is more to life than awards. ItÕs about doing the right thing for students, the audience and the work itself.

ÒPerforming a musical in the fall, instead of the spring gives us more time to rehearse, as a musical needs extra time for the music and choreography,Ó said Cheryl Watson, performing arts department chair at St. Francis. ÒThere is less conflict with other events and concerts that happen in the spring. Musicals tend to be larger casts and with less events, there are fewer conflicts. We also have more time to build the set and props.Ó

St. Francis isnÕt alone in performing a musical this fall. Both Folsom and Oak Ridge High Schools will premier musicals next week Ñ ÒAnnie, Get Your GunÓ and ÒBrigadoon,Ó respectively.

According to Watson, St. Francis never chooses a play or musical with regard to Elly judges. Shows are chosen for the value they provide to our students, production staff, St. Francis community and general audience, never for any award outcome.

With an eye to producing a quality musical, this yearÕs offering by St. Francis should be outstanding.ÒWilly Wonka: The MusicalÓ will be familiar to audiences who enjoyed the classic film ÒWilly Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryÓ (1971). There are several familiar songs along with a few new titles.

In the story, a young boy named Charlie Bucket becomes one of several youngsters competing to win Òa yearÕs supply of chocolate.Ó What Charlie, his Grandpa Joe and the others donÕt realize is that Wonka is seeking an heir to his chocolate empire. A tour of the chocolate factory is laced with delicious temptations designed to test the characters of all.

The St. Francis production features four young men in lead roles. Jake Murphy, a senior at C.K. McClatchy High School, plays the title role of Willy Wonka. Grandpa Joe is played by Niles Swinney, also a senior at McClatchy. The roles of Mr. Bucket and Mr. Salt are played by Matt Pritchard and Cameron Tapella, both seniors at Jesuit High School.Charlie Bucket will be played by Julia Rehwald, a freshman at St. Francis.

ÒItÕs fun and the whole cast gets along,Ó Rehwald said. ÒI was nervous at first being a freshman but not any more.Ó

ÒI am doing the show with my brother who goes to Jesuit and itÕs really fun sharing this with him,Ó said freshman Stephanie Maro, who is in the ensemble. ÒItÕs fun to watch him onstage having a great time in something new.Ó

More than 100 young people are working on the production, and over 120 students auditioned for the 50 roles in the musical. The musical will feature flying effects and a full student orchestra.

Two outreach shows to local elementary and middle school students have sold out. Over 1,000 students and teachers will attend.

ÒThe interest in the outreach was phenomenal,Ó Watson said.

It will be interesting to see how this production fares in the memories of Elly judges when nominations are posted next fall. Until then, however, be prepared enjoy one of the most spectacular offerings of the fall. After all, this production was planned with quality for the audience in mind.

ÒWilly Wonka: The MusicalÓ opens with a gala night celebration on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ($25 general that night only). Regular performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, 5, 6 and Nov. 12 and 13. There is one matinee performance at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 13. Admission is $10 students and $15 general. Tickets are expected to sell out quickly, so visit as soon as possible.

Send your event for consideration in SusanÕs column to [email protected]

Susan Laird

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