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Harrison Avenue Pupils Eat Up 'Willy Wonka' Roles

HARRISON, N.Y. – Prepare to enter a world of imagination with students at Harrison Avenue School who are hard at work rehearsing "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for when they hit the stage in two weeks.

Led by KJK Productions out of Yorktown, students in grades first through fifth are getting a chance to show off their singing, dancing and acting skills as they prepare to bring Roald Dahl's 1964 classic to life. With so much demand from students to participate in the show, the school had no choice but to have two separate casts perform the same play.

"These students get to do something that many kids don't get to do at this age," said Cast B co-chair Johnna Williams. "And they get to perform with their friends."

According to Cast B co-chair Dee Rozell, KJK auditioned and casted the students two weeks ago so they’d be ready come rehearsal time. During the performance, multiple students will play the same characters such as Charlie, Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt and Willy Wonka himself.

Rozell and Williams called the play "child-friendly," noting that most of the students prefer the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder better than the 2005 remake with Johnny Depp in the lead role since the original is a bit “darker” than its counterpart.

KJK Productions co-director Debi Joffee said that what attracts children to the show is the great characters and the bright colors.

“We are teaching them teamwork,” Joffee said. “We have 75 kids working towards a common goal as a cast. It’s just a great opportunity for them.”

Joffee, who has worked with the Harrison Central School District before in a similar capacity, said at the first rehearsal that the cast is coming together well and ready to work quickly and efficiently on the production. Students were already practicing in the hallways around the school to hone their craft.

“We want to throw them out there and see what they learn,” she said.

The performances are set for March 10 and 11 at Harrison Avenue School. Each cast will perform two shows: the first at 11 a.m., the second at 2 p.m. on their respective performance days. When KJK Productions finishes up at Harrison Avenue School, they will bring the program to Purchase Elementary, then Parson Memorial followed by Samuel J. Preston where students at each of these schools will get a chance to participate.

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