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'Wonka Jr.' cultivates young talent, no small feat

The Northwest Youth Theatre is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a big way with the production of “Willy Wonka, Jr.” There’s a big show, a big stage and a big cast.

Based on the ever-popular Roald Dahl book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the production will include several favorite tunes such as “The Candy Man,” “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” and “Pure Imagination.”

Theater-goers will also be treated to the memorable characters from the book including good guys such as Willy Wonka, Charlie, the Oompa-Loopmas, and equally memorable, if less likable characters such as Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee, Violet Beauregard and Augustus Gloop.

The cast includes 60 local children, ages 5 to 13, and is the largest-scale production ever attempted by the Northwest Youth Theatre.

“We felt that the time has come for our young performers to experience what it is like to present a big show on a big stage,” said Karli Winters, president of the Northwest Youth Theatre, explaining the company’s decision to “go big” with this production. “We are very grateful to the Hillsboro School District and specifically to Mr. Bill Johnson of the theater department at Century High School for making it possible for us to reach these goals.”

The production is co-directed by Winters and Lois Lents, a founding member of the organization, which currently produces two major shows per year.

Winters and Lents have been working together for almost 18 years and are no strangers to youth productions.

Their shows don’t require actors to have any previous experience and without a main star, the works shine a light on all participating kids, even those new to theater.

“In this particular show, we have more than one Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket,” Winters said. “We have kindergartners who have never performed, and we also have middle schoolers who have been with us for four or five seasons now.”

Northwest Youth Theatre teaches children of all experience levels to foster self-confidence, teamwork, creativity and communication skills.

“Theater provides an opportunity for teamwork that is unparalleled in most other activities and with the cooperation it takes between the actors as well as the backstage staff, the technicians, the director and everyone else, you find that you are only successful when you can trust and depend on one another just like you would in any team sport,” Winters said. “And when the hard work and trust come together, it creates magic that children do not soon forget.”

Performances will be at 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at Century High School, 2000 S.E. Century Blvd. in Hillsboro.

Tickets are available online at nwyouththeatre.org.

Tickets are $10 for ages 13 and older and $8 for ages 2 to 12. The show is a fundraiser for Century High School’s drama department.



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