(With photos from Teshia Llewellyn.)
Whimsy and charm emanate from Roald Dahl’s famous book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This year, the magic of Willy Wonka will be brought to life in musical theatre form by students at A. Lorne Cassidy (ALC) elementary school. The sweet story isn’t the only think making the theatre production special.
Performances this year are dedicated to Kate Cooney, a former ECE who died earlier this year after a short battle with a brain tumor.
Success of the musical theatre program at ALC is due to Cooney. After a lag in the program, she brought it back three years ago with a production of Beauty and the Beast, followed by Annie Jr last year.
“She chose all the plays and chose this one in June,” says Noelle Georganas, a teacher at ALC and director of Willy Wonka. “This is her legacy that she left for us and we are going to carry it on.”
The production has brought the entire school community together. Student involvement is high. There were 150 grades 3–8 students who auditioned for 55 roles. There are an additional 12 students working behind the scenes on props, tech and lights.
“It gives kids a chance to shine that might not shine in other areas,” said Georganas.
ALC principal Elizabeth Rainer said that the musical theater program is simply referred to as “The Musical.”
“I’ve never seen anything else on this scale in 27 years of teaching,” said Rainer. “The dedication, practice and hard work cumulating in an amazing performance. It impacts self-confidence; risk taking and the gains the students make are huge.
It’s not just the students that step up to make The Musical a success.
Many teachers have volunteered to help with the musical. Recently, Cooney’s daughter Molly has been coming to morning practices to share her expertise in acting and directing.
And that’s not all.
“The parents have been incredible,” said Georganas. “I knew this was a big project to take on and I didn’t have all the expertise.”
Parents have jumped in to help with costumes, sets, printed materials, makeup and hair, and organizing a cast party. There are parents who regularly attend before-school rehearsals and one who helps with vocals.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” said Georganas.
All the extra support has been very much needed this year. There has been no budget for The Musical. Proceeds raised last year were used to cover the cost of the scripts, about $1,000.
Previously, because of Cooney’s involvement with the Mississippi Mudds, an active amateur theatre group in Carleton Place, the school was able to borrow many of the costumes they needed. Additionally, the school used to borrow lights from South Carleton High School that are no longer useable.
Seeing a need for funds, parent Julie Rumer was inspired to organize a fundraiser to support the program. Her initiative is the Oompa-pa-looza fundraiser, a family friendly night featuring two local bands.
Rumer recently moved to Stittsville and has a grade 3 student involved in Willy Wonka. She never met Kate Cooney but has heard a lot about her.
“This is a rebuilding year, but the kids are still very much affected by Mrs. Cooney,” said Rumer. “She inspired them. She did leave a legacy of students that love the theatre and believe they can be whatever they want to be. “
Rumer is a vocalist in a local band, Take Five. She and her band mates joined forces with another local group, relatively THIN to perform at the April 28 fundraiser. All proceeds will go the ALC musical theatre program.
Like other parents, teachers and the principal, they see value in having a musical theatre program continue at ALC.
“I think it’s incredible,” said Rainer. “It’s a key element of that makes A. Lorne Cassidy a great place to be. Students, staff and family all come together to create this amazing show.”
This is the year to make things extra special to honour the memory of Kate Cooney.
“We wanted to do it up in honour of Kate,” said Geroganas. “I think the kids are going to make Kate proud. She inspired the kids and she inspired me.”
About The Musical: The public is invited to evening performances of Willy Wonka on April 24 and 25 at 7:00 p.m., doors open at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door. The play is 1 hour 15 minutes with a 20 minute intermission that will feature a Wonka Themed concession.
The Fundraiser: Oompa-pa-looza featuring Take Five and relativel y THIN is at the Johnny Leroux Arena (UPPER LEVEL) on Saturday, April 28th, 2018. Doors at 6:30pm, bands start at 7:00pm.Tickets: Adults: $15 Kids 4-17: $5 Under 4: FREE. For advanced tickets contact Julie Rumer at firstname.lastname@example.org