Thomas Harrison Serving Up ‘Amazing Talent’

Posted: March 6, 2014

Julie Hedrick, cast as Mrs. Gloop, and her gluttonous son, Augustus — Kyle Showalter — and cook Silas Benevento-Zahner, rehearse “Willy Wonka, Jr.” (Photo by Michael Reilly)

Odds are, any group of eighth-graders are bound to say something silly; get a group together discussing “Willy Wonka Jr.” character roles, and hilarity will likely ensue.

Whimsical quips abounded when the Thomas Harrison Middle School cast gathered to explain their upcoming annual production.

 “I’m normally a really loud person, so suddenly playing this quiet, sweet person has been a dramatic change for me,” laughed Nicole Raab, who will be portraying Mrs. Bucket, mother of lead character Charlie.  “It’s a lot of fun to be somebody that I’m really not.”

Meanwhile, Gabby Wilson is looking forward to her role of playing Violet for the complete opposite reason.

“I like my character because I get to be annoying, chew gum and explode,” she admitted.  “Besides, who doesn’t like to be a brat every once and a while?”

Marley Adamek, who will be portraying Mrs. Beauregarde, said that she loves playing her role as Violet’s mother, because the character really cares for her daughter — among other reasons.

“Her costumes are really cool and I get to talk in a southern accent,” she stated, with a twinge of country twang.

The colorful exuberance displayed by the student comes just days before each is set to conquer the stage in a three-night event, during which locals will be able to witness the school’s “amazing young singing talent,” as drama director Michael Strawderman stated.

“We have amazing talent and we really push the bar as far as performances go — technicality, costume wise, lights and sound,” said Strawderman, who has been with the school since 1991.  “This year, we’ve really raised the bar.”

The cast and crew for this musical number are made up of 68 students, ranging from grades 5-8, who will be serving as either a monitor for the play’s light and sound, a representative of the stage crew, or a cast member.  

The cast has met for nearly two hours a day, four times a week in order to rehearse their roles in what will be the last middle school musical production many will serve in before heading on to high school.

“Oh my goodness, they’re excited,” said Kimly S. Schlabach, choral director, adding that the anticipation has been building since the students turned in their costume pieces.

But, will they be nervous?

“Everybody’s going to have that time, five minutes before the show starts, where they’re going to be like ‘Oh my god, I’m going to mess up and everybody’s going to laugh at me,’ ” said calm, cool and collected student Julie Hedrick.  “But as soon as you go out there, it just goes away and you perform.”

Willy Wonka Jr. performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 14-15; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 16 in the Thomas Harrison Middle School auditorium.  For tickets, contact the box office at 810-5606. General seating costs $5.

Contact Matt Gonzales at 574-6265 or

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