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Willy Wonka pays a visit to Spa City

Most know about that special golden ticket and a land filled with lollipops, gumdrops and rivers of chocolate from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or the more recent "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." From Feb. 5 to 7, middle schoolers from Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga Springs will bring the classic to life with a stage production of "Willy Wonka."

Director Candace Calvin thought "Willy Wonka" would be the perfect play for the sixth- through eighth-graders to perform because they're familiar with the movie version.

"We've planned quite an amazing, colorful set. I'm excited for everyone to see all the stuff we have. We have a few special effects planned. This year, we'd like to get some kids to fly," said Calvin, who has been directing plays at the middle school for three years.

The cast of 110, whittled down from a whopping 250 who auditioned, rehearse from November to February, but the planning starts months earlier.

"It's a huge undertaking and actually starts the summer before, as far as picking out the play, ordering things, planning schedules," said Calvin.

Directing a play might be hours of hard work for Calvin, but for the young actors and actresses preparing, the fun outweighs the work.

"The best part is the cast. It's just really fun hanging out with everyone," said Kasha Zygadlo, an eighth-grader who plays Charlie's grandma.

Zygadlo is no stranger to theater. She attends the camp Saratoga Summer Stages each summer and most recently played the part of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz." She said acting comes naturally and she likes being the center of attention.

"I like performances the best and just getting to be a different person is a lot of fun," said Zygadlo.

Andrew Losey didn't know if he liked theatre or would be any good at it. So when he auditioned for the play and got the lead role of Charlie Bucket, he was surprised.

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