All aboard

Blue Room Young’s production of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a fun trip for children … and their parents

“IT’S A WONKAVATOR”<br>Winston Colgan plays Willy Wonka in the Blue Room Young’s production of <i>Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator</i>. Colgan is the oldest of the cast, which ranges in age from 7 to 14.

Winston Colgan plays Willy Wonka in the Blue Room Young’s production of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Colgan is the oldest of the cast, which ranges in age from 7 to 14.

Photo By Mark Lore

Twelve-year-old Jessica Candela sits cross-legged inside the Blue Room Theatre lobby reading her script. Food, water bottles and a Hello Kitty backpack surround her. The 22 other children are scattered around Candela as she closes her eyes and mouths her lines for the Blue Room Young Co.'s production of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Members of the cast, ranging in age from 7 to 14, entertain themselves by goofing around before a rehearsal.

“Our cast is kinda kooky,” said Brian Davis, who plays Charlie Bucket and remains in character while inside the theater.

Eventually the children filter out. Davis walks back into the lobby, extends his left hand (yes, left) for a handshake and sits next to the water cooler.

“I’m Brian most of the time, but there are exceptions where I’ll be Charlie,” Davis explained. “I am Charlie Bucket. Even in the games you’ve got to die in character.”

The story begins where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory leaves off: In a glass elevator floating through space. Encounters with aliens, a space hotel and the White House are all on the agenda for Willy Wonka and the rest of the group. The Young Co. is the Blue Room Theatre’s attempt to keep the arts a part of children’s lives. Some of the proceeds from tickets sold go into a scholarship fund for children who would like to act but don’t have the means.

The children, however, are just there to have a good time.

“My favorite thing about this play is that everyone jumps off the boat,” Davis said. “No one just rocks the boat, everyone is just off it.”

A big metaphor for the smallest of the 11-year-old boys. Davis waits patiently for the chance to elaborate on his character.

“It’s more complicated to be Charlie because I have to go to a totally different point of view. We have nothing in common,” he said. “Maybe one thing: We both like chocolate.”

Davis … err … Charlie concludes the interview with another hand shake, this time with his right hand.

Michelle Smith, a Blue Room actress and assistant producer for the play, enters the children-polluted lobby. A group of 7-year-old girls gather around her as soon as her black tennis shoes meet blue carpet.

“Helloooo,” Smith greets the girls. The girls giggle and start speaking all at once. It sounds like an opera playing in fast-forward. Smith seems to understand every word as she talks and laughs with the girls for a few minutes before escaping into the empty theater.

Smith works with the “teens” and the “little ones.” Together director Lisa Schmidt and Smith choose scripts, audition children and put together the Young Co.'s plays.

“We try to pick scripts where, even if [the children] don’t get lead parts, no character just walks across the stage,” Smith said.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a children’s book by Roald Dahl that was dramatized by Richard R. George. The book is described as a “fantasy adventure for children,” but the play is a political satire in children’s clothing.

Among the many of Smith’s responsibilities is answering questions from the curious children. When the president of the United States assumes the glass elevator is going to attack, the American space hotel the chief commander wants to bomb it. There are too many questions for Smith to field, and no real explanation when asked why wars are fought.

“Try explaining global politics to kids,” she said.

The script does more than act as a venue for bored children during the summer. Scripts are chosen that will help educate the children and entertain the parents, Smith said.

“It’s not just parents coming to see their cute kids on stage in costumes,” she said. “There’s something for everyone.”