Student performing the role of Charlie in Willie Wonka Jr.

As curtains rose and lights fell on the latest theatrical endeavor at W.D. Williams Elementary, a whimsical tale began to unfold about sweet tales of an out of this world imagination. 

This school year, theTheater Club composed of 95 students from second to fifth grades wowed audiences with the production of Willie Wonka, Jr. With the help of Exceptional Children’s teacher Jessica Lehman who leads the club, students set off to help with acting, set crew, curtains, props, costume, or lights and sound crew. 

Everyone involved with the production began rehearsals in January and come showtime the week of March 18th, the theater was transformed into a candy wonderland. Rehearsals happened on Thursdays and Fridays for an hour each day after school. 

“We know that families are busy and adding long rehearsals can interfere with a student’s ability to participate if it’s going to interfere with sports practice or other community based activities,” said Ms. Lehman.  

With a production of this scale there were a few hiccups along the way, but thanks to parent volunteers and community organizations the show went on. For one of the performances Wonka was under the weather, and the team of ticket winners joined on stage with him to sing his part so the audience could hear it. 

“I think watching the students come to help Wonka speaks so highly of the supportive community this club has become,” Ms. Lehman explained. “We also have a very outdated sound system in our theater. One of our parents, Peter Councell who is a professional producer, helped us overcome this problem. He borrowed equipment from his church, and helped me write another Kiwanis grant to fund the improvements.”

Ms. Lehman expressed how important theater is for students, and is looking forward to the club growing each year. 

“I strongly believe that schools should be providing free clubs that cover a wide variety of interests,” she said. “I think theater especially helps a student build confidence, experience new things, and forge new friendships. Research shows that it expands a child’s vocabulary and improves reading fluency. It gives students a chance to develop their skills and talents.”

She also stressed how this club is 100% student led. 

“The students are running the show and even choreographing their own routines,” Lehman said. “They really do it all! I think that is one major thing that makes our theater club special. Our shows are not going to be perfect. Our audience will know that children created every piece of the show. But I think that’s what makes people love it so much.”

Students performing in Willie Wonka Jr.