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    The kids of A to Zee Creativity are staging Charlie and the Chocolate Factory— with tap dancing and handmade sets

    ARoom full of candy, a chocolate river, gigantic machines and an eccentric man in a top hat. These can conjure up just one story, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. About five children who win golden tickets to enter a mysterious chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka, it follows them on their adventures with the Oompa Loompas and their fight for self control in the face of all that sweet temptation. “It’s one of my favourite books by Dahl and, along with the movies, it is a rite of passage for most children,” states Shaan Katari Libby, a city-based lawyer, theatre actor and founder of A to Zee Creativity, an arts and communication centre for children. “We watched the London show last year and was inspired to give it a go as part of this year’s production,” she adds.
    Meet the cast1
    Over 70 members strong, the cast comprises children between the ages of five and 17 (students of  A to Zee Creativity). The selection of roles was fair, Libby avers, explaining the children picked their parts through lots—with Ayush Mammen, a boy who speaks and sings well, snapping up Charlie, while her children, Adam and Zia, got the roles of Wonka and Veruca Salt (one of the ticket winners). “While the older children had read the book, for the younger ones we had a screening of the Johnny Depp movie, to familiarise them with the plot and the songs,” she says, explaining that the toughest challenge was trimming the script to fit a 90-minute format.
    The musical includes five dance sequences with the Oompa Loompas (the little ones are performing lyrical jazz) and a finale with the older children doing a tap dance. “It’s been challenging, but my choreographers Prarthana Revanoor and Manikandan, worked with them to create a great act,” she smiles.
    Beyond the stage
    Libby believes her annual productions should be more than just performing on stage—the children should take back something. “This story lends itself to using the language to its fullest extent. They have learnt songs and poems, and words that they wouldn’t otherwise use,” she says. The children were hands-on with sets, too. “They all took turns to make the props—like the chocolate bars and the machines,” Libby says, adding that she took a U-turn from her earlier productions—the first three parts of the Harry Potter series—so that she could present a story everyone could connect with.
    At Alliance Francaise, on April 11 (6 pm) and 12 (11 am and 6 pm). Rs 300 onwards. Details: eventjini.com

    Surya Praphulla Kumar

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