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by Melanie Rovinsky
Special to the Herald
For four days in mid-July, Cheshire High School’s auditorium will be transformed into the whimsical world of Willy Wonka, as the town’s youth theater group takes the stage in their rendition of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Dana Sachs, Cheshire Youth Theater director, works in conjunction with the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department to put on the annual all-student production. The theater group, which has been around since the late 1990s, allows Cheshire fifth-through twelfth-graders to exhibit and develop their acting and singing abilities.
“The wide age range of the kids is a challenge,” Sachs said. “The group comes with disparate ages and experiences, and every cast has its own dynamic.”
According to Sachs, the performers’ various backgrounds do not inhibit the production value on stage. Despite the hectic schedules of those involved, and the brief three-week period after school concludes when the entire cast manages to get together, the Cheshire Youth Theater is able to put on a coherent and well-rehearsed show.
“It’s amazing how random everything is in the beginning – these kids don’t have a clue about how it’s all going to come together,” Sachs laughed.
In order to prepare for their upcoming show, entitled Willy Wonka, the group has been rehearsing on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two and a half hours each day, and on Sundays for five hours. The long hours and tight quarters practicing in CPFA Artsplace have caused the group to become what Sachs says is “almost like a family.”
Deanna Giulietti, a recent Cheshire High School graduate who will be attending Hofstra University for musical theater and performance in the fall, is playing the lead of Willy Wonka. Taking inspiration from performances by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, Giulietti is enjoying getting in touch with the nuances of her “crazy” character.
“I have to bring my own interpretation to the role,” Giulietti said. “And I’m a little off my rocker.”
Sachs said he has had the pleasure of watching Giulietti transform into an amazing singer and actress, and his favorite aspect of directing the Cheshire Youth Theater is getting to see the kids grow up.
“It’s like having kids, but not having to deal with any of the bad stuff,” Sachs said.
The cast of Willy Wonka may have their differences, but they all agree that the theater group is a tight-knit community.
Ian Pekar, 13, is playing the lead role of Charlie – his first lead since joining the Cheshire Youth Theater three years ago. He is thankful for the great friends he has made since joining the group.
Similarly, Dan D’Albis, 16, who plays Grandpa Joe, cites “the people” as the greatest benefit of participating in the Cheshire Youth Theater.
“It’s just a great community. Everyone is nice, and the shows are great, which is a plus,” D’Albis said.
The theater group’s production of Willy Wonka, will be performed Thursday, July 14 through Saturday, July 16, beginning at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, July 17, at 2 p.m. All shows will be performed in the Thorp Auditorium at Cheshire High School, 525 South Main Street. Tickets available at the door or in advance at the Parks and Rec Office.