Last show of 'Willy Wonka: The Musical' tonight at Ritter Park
HUNTINGTON — HART in the Park’s color-and-candy-splashed production of “Willy Wonka: The Musical,” is pulling the wrapper back on its final show tonight at the Ritter Park Amphitheater.
Directed by Mary Smirl and starring Ryan Hardiman as Willy Wonka, the musical completes its three weekend run at 8:30 Sunday, July 27 at the Ritter Park Amphitheater. 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. Wonka candy bars will be for sale, with 60 golden tickets hidden in the candy. The lucky ticket winners will have a chance to win prizes, including a visit to the Candy Man (Clint McElroy) and his candy cart.
Tommy Smirl, one of the founders of HART with fellow veteran actor Clint McElroy, and Mary Smirl, Tommy’s wife who is directing “Wonka,” said it has been an exciting run for “Wonka,” dodging rain clouds, making sure their special effects worked and that audiences get a great show every night.
In that regard, Smirl, whose HART in the Park theater troupe has teamed up with the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District to produce theater at the park, said the summer has been a great success.
“The whole thing, and what moved us to get involved with it was that we felt this is something that our community enjoyed for 20 years and we didn’t want it to go away,” Smirl said. “That is why we stepped into it. We are getting nothing from it for personal gain other than the joy of creating art. We just feel that a community that is exposed to art is a better community for all of us.”
Smirl said he hopes as they go into the last weekend that folks from the Tri-State will pack out the amphitheater to make sure there is a resounding vote of sorts as to the viability of summer theater in Huntington.
“We need their participation by being an audience member and we are looking for suggestions as to what we can do better and what people would like to see and what they want,” Smirl said.
With a constant pulse (there are no blackouts or set changes) “Wonka” is a swiftly-paced show that’s been brilliantly controlled by the candy man himself, Willy Wonka, played by stage veteran Ryan Hardiman, who’s starred in dozens of productions in Charleston and Huntington, and has sang with both the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Huntington Symphony Orchestra.
“Ryan has a Wonka that is a little Gene Wilder a little Johnny Depp and a whole lot of Ryan Hardiman in there,” Smirl said. “He has a way of really feeding off the audience and when they are really responsive he gets bigger and wilder and you don’t know what is doing to come out of him. When he collects the golden tickets, one night he grabs it says ‘scrumptious’ and he ate the ticket. I am watching him on stage and I’m like he is going to have to fully commit to this or not and he did he chewed it up and swallowed it. Of course, the kids love Willy Wonka because he is bringing candy but the adults get the humor of it.... so that is entertaining for everyone.”
For folks coming early to the show, the adult pre-show has included on most nights either Clint McElroy or Danny Craig (the writers of one of next year’s original productions, “Collis P,”) on stage singing a song or two from that show.
“We’ve had some people come back like Chris Sizemore during ‘Nunsense’ and Mary Kate Young who performed last weekend,” Smirl said. “Clint and Danny have also done a ‘Collis P’ song every night and we are telling people that we are building towards next summer. We were waiting to see how this season went but we want to do that show and we made that statement up front also that we are inviting any director to make a presenatation as to a show they would like to do. If it is a show that fits with what we are trying to do we will have them come in and do it.”
Connect with HART in the Park on their Facebook page, as well as at the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation web site at www.ghprd.org