Cast, crew immerse themselves in “Willy Wonka”


Dana Beattie

Giving instructions, Willy Wonka, (center) played by senior K.J. Pau, directs his technicians (L to R) sophomores Grant McDaniel, Emmie Esch, Brendon Johnson, senior Annah Garrison and junior Kelsie Clark to demonstrate Wonka-vision. The Musical “Willy Wonka” will perform at FOHS in the PAC Nov. 21-23 at 7 p.m.

Story by Dana Beattie, Reporter

Director Ms. Jeannie Hutter’s voice cuts over the loudspeakers within the auditorium. From her words, students bustle about the stage to comply with her directives.  Scuffling feet and shouting dissipates in the air backstage as the latest school musical is practiced once again. The actors move from scene to scene and costume to costume.

The Fort Osage Drama Club has made big strides with their latest production, “Willy Wonka,” which will be performed on Nov. 21, 22 and 23, at 7 p.m. in the school’s Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children under five.

Many moving parts have been made for this production, in addition to much time being dedicated by all participating students. Practice is held every day after school for three hours. Various students work in different departments, such as sound and set construction, bundled with the actors and stage crew. Sophomore Emmie Esch holds the lead role of Charlie Bucket within her hands.

“Being the lead, there is a lot of weight on my shoulders but I’m thrilled to be a part of this production,” Esch shared. 

Esch has been acting since she was 6-years old, having found her passion within her first play at the Sermon Center Children’s Theatre group. She immediately fell in love with the spotlight. As for her newest role, Charlie, it was not debatable that she was perfect for the lead. 

“We changed (the role) to be a girl role, but as an actor you have to be prepared for anything, even if that is another gender,” Esch said. 

The Drama Club has added their own spin to the production, having compiled pieces from the original script and the Gene Wilder version, yet also staying true to the fundamentals of “Willy Wonka.” Throughout the musical, audience members can find songs that were in the original,  including “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”, “Cheer Up Charlie” and “Pure Imagination.” Tanner McDaniel is the head of set construction, dedicating his afternoons and one class period a day to the musical. 

“I involve the industrial technological aspect of the theatre,” McDaniel explained. 

McDaniel has been creating the sets of the school musical for four years. Because of his contributions to building sets, Fort Osage has been nominated for the Blue Star Awards every year he has participated with set design and creation. The annual Blue Star Awards is a musical theatre recognition program throughout the Kansas City area, started in 2003 from the example of Broadway’s Tony Awards. 

“It’s a beautiful set, made with the assistance of the AP Art class,” McDaniel stated. “I think (audiences) will find the whimsical design of the set to be a good escape from regular life.”

In addition to being a leader within that department, McDaniel will also be seen on stage, playing the role of Mr. Bucket, Charlie’s father. Another contributor is Sadie Walker, who is working with the sound crew. She works with the sound effects and microphones so the actors can be heard clearly. Inside the control booth, Walker works with the large soundboard, raising levers for volume and hardwiring a computer to time the sound effects to perfection. 

“I really love working with these people,” Walker said. “The actors are very expressive.”

Within the orchestra pit, music drifts towards the stage. A hushed silence falls over the group as Ms. Hutter directs the actors and crew. And with a flourish of song and dance the next scene begins.