All-County musical takes stage this weekend

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Mehgaan Jones


Clayton County public school students are gearing up for their rendition of "Willy Wonka," after the show was delayed by a winter storm that closed schools for a whole week.

The production was originally scheduled for Jan. 14, 15, and 16, but was moved to this weekend because of the inclement weather.

"The backdrops were in Kansas, and they were supposed to arrive last Monday," said Kathy Baker, a Clayton County Performing Arts Center technical director, and the director of the musical. "Fedex could not get out that day." Baker said the backdrops finally arrived, on Tuesday.

The students were set to have three full practices, but had to minimize it to just two, Baker said. "We are not going to allow Mother Nature to stop this show," she vowed.

The musical will be performed on Friday, Jan. 21, and Saturday Jan. 22, at 7 p.m., at the Clayton County Public Schools Performing Arts Center, which is located at 2530 Mt. Zion Pkwy., in Jonesboro. A third performance will take place on Sunday, Jan. 23, at 2:30 p.m.

The musical is based on the 1971 movie, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," which was directed by Mel Stuart, and starred Gene Wilder.

"The musical is very similar to the original movie," said Baker, at the last rehearsal, on Wednesday. "It's a show that we have not done before. We are always looking for a show that has some familiarity ... Everybody knows about it [Willy Wonka]."

According to Baker, the musical involves a range of Clayton County students, from second-graders to 12th-graders.

She said more than 100 students, including the cast, those in the orchestra pit, and the stage, sound and set crews are involved in the production.

The musical will include classic songs from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," such as "Pure Imagination" and "Candy Man."

Clayton County Fine Arts Magnet High School junior, Kahlil Barrett, who is playing the role of Willy Wonka, was ecstatic when he received the news that he got the part.

"Honestly, it shocked me at first, when I got the role," said Barrett. "Everyone said that was the first time they actually heard me silent," he added with a laugh.

Barrett said people express to him that he plays the character well, because of his high energy. "He has a beautiful voice, and he is a passionate person," said Baker.

The gluttonous, Augustus Gloop, is played by Fine Arts Magnet High School junior, Demetrice Cunningham. "I get to play around with my character," he said.

James A. Jackson Elementary student, Brenna Harrison, is excited about playing the role of an oompa loompa. "I feel awesome, and pumped up, and ready for the day," said Harrison.

"There are lots of good things going on in Clayton County," said Baker. She added that the county has many talented fine arts students.

Admission to the production is $5 in advance, and $7 at the door. For more information, call the Performing Arts Center, at (770) 473-2875.