Briarcliff Middle School Presents Willy Wonka Junior

Putting on a school musical with over 30 participants is no easy feat. Luckily, Briarcliff Schools put an emphasis on giving back and helping one another.

Briarcliff Middle School is putting on the show Willy Wonka Junior this month and the cast and crew is receiving support in many ways.

Based on Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the show is about a candy maker who looks for an heir to his factory, and features more than 20 songs.

Assistant Director and Musical Director Regina Leon has been rehearsing daily with the performers, many of whom are sixth graders.

“Being in the show is very different for sixth graders because they come from the elementary school where the shows are done differently,” she said. “For example, in elementary school, several people take turns playing the same role. This is much more focused and there is more work and commitment involved. It’s a good opportunity to teach students accountability.”

Students begin by learning the music, Ms. Leon said. At the same time, they learn choreography.

Davyd Suber, who is the show’s director and choreographer, has made the dancing a lot of fun,” Ms. Leon said. “It’s not just step touch, and the kids are excited about that.”

Both Mr. Suber and Ms. Leon have had an impact on all of the show’s participants.

“My favorite part about doing the show is that Mr. Suber and Ms. Leon are top-tier,” said eighth-grader Danny Dempsey. “They make everything so much easier.”

When Danny was a sixth-grader, he recalls the older students helping him and plans to return the favor.

“I like helping the younger students,” he said. “It’s fun to help them because they will help future sixth graders, so it’s nice to pass that on.”

“We count on the seventh and eighth graders to be mentors,” Ms. Leon said. “We also have several high school mentors who have been in the high school theatrical productions.”

“It’s been really fun,” said Briarcliff High School senior Scarlett Young.

Senior Alejandra Jimenez agrees.

“Watching the kids rehearse is kind of cool,” she said. “Not just watching their skills, but I’m also looking forward to seeing how they are going to put it all together in the end.”

Sophomore Noah Rinke mentors the students who are part of the stage crew, who typically meet on Thursdays.

“I help stage manage the show, organize things and write down blocking, which is what everyone is supposed to do on stage, plus I do errands occasionally,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a really good show, the kids are very dedicated. I was a mentor last year, too, so it’s nice to watch the seventh and eighth graders this year because you can see how they mature and grow on the stage.”

“Being in a school theater production is an opportunity to grow as a person, whether on stage or as part of the stage crew,” Ms. Leon said. “And when they are not rehearsing, we make sure to keep them busy with activities such as puzzles and word searches, so they are never bored.”

“I like working with this age group,” said piano accompanist Connie Tremer. “They are starting to become sophisticated, but they are still curious about everything and their enthusiasm is contagious.”

The musical will be performed on May 31 and June 1 at 7pm and on June 2 at 2pm at the Little Theater.

According to Ms. Leon, the show is appropriate for all ages.

“It is a very uplifting and silly version and not at all dark,” she said. “It is fun and upbeat – kindergarteners will love it.”




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