River City Jules: Family gets into the act

March 26, 2012


All of our kids have pulled me out of my comfort zone at one point or another, from providing free driver’s ed to house-training a puppy to taking — and, I might add, passing — the Cub Scout swim test.

But this time it was Caroline who managed to extract me from my happy place and onto the stage at the Lawrence Arts Center this Friday for its two-weekend run of “Willy Wonka.”

Several months ago Caroline asked if we could audition together for the show. Her oldest sister, Ellie, jumped in, eager to take her newfound oratory skills she refined during debate to the stage. I, perhaps fresh off my virgin voyage under the spotlight in Dueling Divas and suddenly feeling like a real performer, agreed to try out for the musical as part of the Dunlap trio.

It made sense after all, as I was already going to be driving to and from rehearsals. I might as well stay and participate in something besides rapid-fire rounds of Words with Friends. Plus, as I mentioned, I had recently been inducted into the entertainment world as a diva, and good divas never turn down the opportunity to perform.

Caroline was appropriately cast as an Oompa-Loompa, part of Willy’s mysterious workforce who keeps the chocolate flowing and provides social commentary like a pint-sized, turquoise-overalls-clad Greek chorus. They sing, they act and they dance. And they judge the heck out of the four ill-fated children who succumb to their own personality disorders inside the factory.

Director Ric Averill, as always, thought outside the box (the whole universe is his comfort zone) and cleverly split the role of the radio announcer into three television reporters and one cameraman. Ellie will be reporting live with each ticket-winner in the role of Lydia Neous. She also is getting better at driving to and from the arts center, provided there are no unregulated left turns.

The entire crew and cast, including ticket-winners, their hilarious parents, the Candy Man, the kids, the squirrels and, of course, Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket and his family will truly take the audience on a magical, chocolately sweet journey at the Lawrence Arts Center these next two weekends.

And I might be biased here, but the candy chorus, featuring children ages 8 to 15 and one 40-year-old peppermint patty (the shelf life of Mr. Wonka’s confections is unbelievable!) absolutely shines in this world of creation. The chorus includes some extremely talented teenage ballerinas, a handful of adorable young girls sweet enough to eat and one poorly coordinated yet highly enthusiastic mother of four who purchased her first pair of character shoes just for this role. Rumor has it the choreographer recently added “taught a new diva to spin” to his resume.

But in addition to spinning, I learned there is no place in my comfort zone that compares to one of pure imagination. I hope you are able to grab your golden ticket and meet me there.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.