HART ready to showcase 'Willy Wonka: The Musical'
HUNTINGTON -- Those silly singing and dancing nuns may be gone from the Ritter Park Amphitheater, but (Huntington Area Regional Theatre) or HART In The Park is just getting started.
Here comes the candy man, his oompa loompas and all the chocolate and sweet treats your imagination will allow.
On the heels of a successful two-weekend run of "Nunsense," HART in the Park rachets up the action with a three weekend run of "Willy Wonka: The Musical," at the Ritter Park Amphitheater at 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, July 18-20 and July 25-27. Gates open at 6:30 nightly. The pre-show, "Adventures in Storyland," will begin at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15, $20 for reserved and $10 for children. There are also group prices at the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District office at Heritage Station, the Ritter Park Tennis Center, as well as online at www.ghprd.org. Tickets will also be available at the gate. Picnics are welcome. Concessions will be available for purchase outside of the gates.
HART in the Park co-founder Clint McElroy said "Willy Wonka," which stars triple-threat stage veteran Ryan Hardiman and is directed by Mary Smirl, is a perfect show since its humor and songs appeal to such a wide audience.
"When you say you are doing a show for the whole family sometimes that is translated as a kids show but 'Willy Wonka' is really not," said McElroy, of the musical, which is based off of Roald Dahl's book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the 1971 movie, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" with newly created material. "It reminds me of the old 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' cartoons where kids appreciate it on their level and adults on their level. Roald Dahl really had something to say about it all when it came to parenting and kids. There's a real sharp sense of humor going on, and anyone who has seen the movies or read the book knows that."
McElroy said one interesting thing about the musical is that it draws from the best songs in the original Gene Wilder film such as "Candy Man," "Pure Imagination," and "Cheer Up Charlie," and the composers of those songs also got to add in more songs they wrote but that were cut from the film.
"There's a whole lot more than what was just in the movie plus there is some of that same characterization that you saw in Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's version," McElroy said.
With the show less than a week away, McElroy said they're ready to go now as the cast of about 40 -- which includes Charlie played by Nick Wood, who has been in several First Stage Theatre productions -- has been running the show straight through for a while now.
McElroy said "Wonka" is the perfect compliment to "Nunsense," which gave HART a great shot right out of the gate as its first show at the amphitheater, after HART took over for Huntington Outdoor Theatre, which was retired after last season following a 20-year-run at the park.
"We were very tickled and pleased - besides being bookended by rain on opening night and closing night," McElroy said. "... It was one of the best productions of 'Nunsense' I have seen. All of the sisters were hysterically funny and it was a great start for us. We were pleased with the crowds and got great reactions from the crowd. They got the jokes and the audience participation was hilarious. The set was remarkable and Danny Ray's direction was right on the money. It was perfect for the first volley out of the cannon from HART."
McElroy said they're excited for folks to see their version of "Willy Wonka," which has been known for its strong lead roles played in the movies by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp.
Playing Wonka for HART is Hardiman, who shared several summers at Ritter Park Amphitheater in HOT's productions. Hardiman played Corny Collins in last year's production of "Hairspray," and in years past starred in "Beauty and the Beast" (Beast), "The Wedding Singer" (Robbie Hart), and in several other HOT productions.
Some of his most notable roles recently have included "Les Miserables" (Jean Valjean) "Next to Normal" (Dan), "Evita", (Che) and "RENT" (Roger) for Charleston Light Opera Guild, "Jesus Christ Superstar" (Jesus) for Contemporary Youth Arts Company and Trinity Episcopal, Jekyll & Hyde- The Musical"(Jekyll/Hyde) for ACTC and ARTS, to name just a few.
While the show has changed, the children's pre-show is the same.
"Adventures In Storyland" (written and directed by Levi Kelley) will begin at 7 p.m. Immediately following will be "HART's Superstar Pre-show" at 7:30. "Adventures," choreographed by Cindy Westbrook, features mostly children with a few adults that have appeared in other productions such as Rhonda Joplin, Serena Johnson and Hannah Spurlock.
McElroy said they've been using the adult pre-show to give folks a taste of the original musical, "Collis P," that McElroy has been writing with area songwriter Danny Craig, and which HART hopes to debut in the summer of 2015.
"Every night we've been giving folks a little sneak peek from 'Collis P,' " McElroy said. "We've done 'Banks of the Ohio,' and 'Story to Tell,' so it has been a cool opportunity to show that we are looking forward to the summer of 2015."
You can read more about the production in the Thursday, July 10 Weekend section of The Herald-Dispatch.
If You Go:
WHAT: (Huntington Area Regional Theatre) or HART In The Park opens up "Willy Wonka: The Musical,"starring Ryan Hardiman
WHERE: Ritter Park Amphitheater.
WHEN: at 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, July 18-20 and July 25-27. Gates open at 6:30 nightly. The pre-show, "Adventures in Storyland," will begin at 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $15, $20 for reserved and $10 for children. There are also group prices at the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District office at Heritage Station, the Ritter Park Tennis Center, as well as online at www.ghprd.org. Tickets will also be available at the gate. Picnics are welcomed. Concessions will be available for purchase outside of the gates.
ON THE WEB: Go online at https://www.facebook.com/HARTInThePark for more info about HART in the Park
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.