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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

'Willy Wonka' comes to life at Ford


Last updated 8/5/2023 at 6:40am | View PDF

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

The Rising Stars opened the show.

The Shafter Children's Summer Theater presented the Roald Dahl classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," this past weekend. Headed up by Cris Starrh, the theater group has been entertaining audiences for over 25 years, showcasing the local children's passion for the arts.

In this production, the title character was portrayed by Camryn Yasenchek, who brought a vulnerable edge to the character that touched audiences. In the story, Wonka decides to open the doors to his factory to five lucky youngsters, ultimately to hand the keys to the kingdom to a very special child.

That special kid, Charlie Buckett, was played by Archie Dransoff, who had a perfect mix of wonder and playfulness, pushing the candymaker to face the future with him at the helm.

The cast was full of talented children, showing their singing, acting and dancing skills to the delight of the crowd. Grace Givens, who was wonderful in the group's production of "Seussical," was hilarious as the wise-cracking, gum-popping Violet. She knew just what buttons to push to get reactions from the crowd and her fellow cast members.

Also a standout was Caleb Kohler, whose accent and mannerisms were spot-on for his character, the ever-eating Augustus Gloop. The Oompa-Loompas were a great addition to the cast of characters, giving the show a heart along the way. They were played by Faith Givens, Anthony Figueroa, Jude Jaime, Penelope Scialabba and Adilina Montoya. Charlie's Grandpa Joe was also a highlight, played by Micah Neufeld.

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Camryn Yasenchek starred as Mr. Wonka.

The small but mighty band accompanying the show was outstanding. The members included Chad Givens on the bass guitar, Sam McKinne on the drums, Cris Starrh playing the synthesizer, and Meg Wise on the piano.

The evening opened with a performance by the Rising Stars group, previewing the future of the Children's Theater. Directed by Lauren Givens, the show included several numbers that showed the talent of the very young performers.

This Children's Summer Theater group is the brainchild of Starrh, who was looking for something to occupy her children's summer over 20 years ago. It has grown into a group that gives local children an outlet for their artistic passions, feeding their spirits and feeding the community.


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