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Young performers team up for 'Willy Wonka Jr.'

Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News - Bringing the Bucket family to life at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth with the production of 'Willie Wonka Jr.,' from left, are Noah Madden as Charlie, Jordan Ploskina as Mr. Bucket, Laura Basciotta as Mrs. Bucket, Joey Raszewski as Grandpa Joe, Amy Hotovchin as Grandma Josephine, Jeffrey Pew as Grandpa George, and Samantha Hawk as Georgina Bucket.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News</em></div>Bringing the Bucket family to life at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth with the production of 'Willie Wonka Jr.,' from left, are Noah Madden as Charlie, Jordan Ploskina as Mr. Bucket, Laura Basciotta as Mrs. Bucket, Joey Raszewski as Grandpa Joe, Amy Hotovchin as Grandma Josephine, Jeffrey Pew as Grandpa George, and Samantha Hawk as Georgina Bucket.
Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News - The Candy Man, played by Zachary Mendola, center back, is surrounded by Candy Kids, kneeling from left, Margarita Hart, Delaney Myers, DJ Pickell, Noah Madden, Sarah Doran, Cassie Snyder and Sierra Mitchell, and standing, Dory Johnson, Julie Lang, Heather Sickels and Angela Danen for 'Willie Wonka Jr.' at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News</em></div>The Candy Man, played by Zachary Mendola, center back, is surrounded by Candy Kids, kneeling from left, Margarita Hart, Delaney Myers, DJ Pickell, Noah Madden, Sarah Doran, Cassie Snyder and Sierra Mitchell, and standing, Dory Johnson, Julie Lang, Heather Sickels and Angela Danen for 'Willie Wonka Jr.' at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth.
Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News - Sharing the spotlight are Golden Ticket winners and their guardians, front row from left, Joe Coccia as Agustus Gloop, Nora Hoyle as Veruca Salt, Noah Madden as Charlie Bucket, Ana Barrickman as Violet Beauregarde, Connor Vaccari as Mike Teavee and Brittany Halt as Phinea Trout, and back, Veronica Fallert as Mrs. Gloop, Declan Morse as Mr. Salt, Tyler Prah as Grandpa Joe, Alexis Little as Mrs. Beauregarde, and Carly Cygrymus as Mrs. Teavee.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News</em></div>Sharing the spotlight are Golden Ticket winners and their guardians, front row from left, Joe Coccia as Agustus Gloop, Nora Hoyle as Veruca Salt, Noah Madden as Charlie Bucket, Ana Barrickman as Violet Beauregarde, Connor Vaccari as Mike Teavee and Brittany Halt as Phinea Trout, and back, Veronica Fallert as Mrs. Gloop, Declan Morse as Mr. Salt, Tyler Prah as Grandpa Joe, Alexis Little as Mrs. Beauregarde, and Carly Cygrymus as Mrs. Teavee.
Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News - Sharing the spotlight are Golden Ticket winners and their guardians, front row from left, Joe Coccia as Augustus Gloop, Nora Hoyle as Veruca Salt, Noah Madden as Charlie Bucket, Ana Barrickman as Violet Beauregarde, Connor Vaccari as Mike Teavee and Brittany Halt as Phineous Trout, and back, Julie Lang as Mrs. Gloop, Declan Morse as Mr. Salt, Tyler Prah as Grandpa Joe, Alexis Little as Mrs. Beauregarde, and Carly Cygrymus as Mrs. Teavee.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News</em></div>Sharing the spotlight are Golden Ticket winners and their guardians, front row from left, Joe Coccia as Augustus Gloop, Nora Hoyle as Veruca Salt, Noah Madden as Charlie Bucket, Ana Barrickman as Violet Beauregarde, Connor Vaccari as Mike Teavee and Brittany Halt as Phineous Trout, and back, Julie Lang as Mrs. Gloop, Declan Morse as Mr. Salt, Tyler Prah as Grandpa Joe, Alexis Little as Mrs. Beauregarde, and Carly Cygrymus as Mrs. Teavee.
Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News - Zachary Mendola as Willie Wonka, center, is surrounded by the Oompa Loompas, kneeling from left, Skylar Ruschak, Sadie Mitchell, Keira Platz and Caylee Reynolds, and standing, Kaylie Molanick, Angelina Jordan, Haley Pape, Chloe Skerkoski, Grace Williams and Kyra Clugston.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Carol Waterloo Frazier | Daily News</em></div>Zachary Mendola as Willie Wonka, center, is surrounded by the Oompa Loompas, kneeling from left, Skylar Ruschak, Sadie Mitchell, Keira Platz and Caylee Reynolds, and standing, Kaylie Molanick, Angelina Jordan, Haley Pape, Chloe Skerkoski, Grace Williams and Kyra Clugston.

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‘Willy Wonka Jr.'

Grand Theatre207 S. Second Ave. Elizabeth

7:30 p.m. Fri., 2 and 6 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.

Tickets: $8

Information/reservations: 412-384-0504

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
 

When it comes to a story for the whole family, you can't go wrong with a tale that centers around candy and, more specifically, chocolate.

The Petite Players and Stage Masters will bring “Willy Wonka Jr.” to life on the Grand Theatre stage for four shows this weekend.

Director Lorraine Mszanski said the show should be entertaining for theater-goers.

“As a director, this show has been fun,” she said. “The story is familiar to the kids so the material was not too much to get through and it has not been overly challenging.”

The 38-member cast ranges in age from 6-16. Combining the two groups for one show has opened opportunities for the actors, Mszanski said.

“The younger kids have a great opportunity to look up to the older kids and see what they should be doing,” she said. “Many of the younger ones have never been onstage before, so that is a great learning opportunity for them.

“It also means the older kids have to be on top of their game because they are being looked up to. It's a great situation for everyone.”

Mszanski said she is fortunate to have strong performers in the two lead roles.

“It takes a special performer to be Willy Wonka and the Candy Man, and Zachary Mendola is doing a great job,” she said. “This is the first time I've seen him doing a main role and we are very lucky to have him for this show.”

She had similar praises for Noah Madden, who plays Charlie.

“We were real lucky to have such a such strong performer in this key role,” she said. “He is so enthusiastic, which is exciting.”

Mszanski is not new to the Grand Theatre. She served as stage manager for the Main Stage season, then was asked to work with high school performers in the Stage Masters program. She took a year off to start a family, then was asked by producer/executive director Lori Kolodziej if she would be interested in doing a combined show with the young actors.

“Because I took off, I was able to go in and have a plan for how to spend rehearsal time,” she said. “When you are dealing with kids, you have to have a plan so they know exactly what they will be doing at each rehearsal, and it really paid off. They did a great job.”

What proved challenging, she said, was creating a set that takes the audience to the various locations in the show.

“Trying to put a world of imagination with different rooms on one stage is a challenge — especially to do it to a scale that will take the audience to those places,” she said.

Working with youth comes naturally to Mszanski, who was a baby sitter and nanny while growing up. At church, she taught religious education classes and worked with her husband on a drug-and-alcohol prevention program for kids.

“I guess I just fell into working with kids in the theater,” Mszanski said.

Her favorite moment in the show — in which she played Mrs. Teavee “back in the day” — is the sequence in which the ticket winners are introduced to the inside of the factory.

“It's the Willy Wonka scene from the movie and it's really kind of magical and great,” the director said.

Because the show is geared for a younger cast, the message is pretty clear.

“Wonka's big lesson to the kids is that it's OK to make a mistake, but tell the truth and take responsibility for your actions,” Mszanski said. “I hope people can see past the bubbles and silliness and walk away with that message.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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