Register now for ‘Willy Wonka youth musical


The colorful, dynamic world of “Willy Wonka” is opening this fall to the young would-be actors in the Bartlett area. The TheatreKids program is putting on a performance of the beloved musical this spring at the Bartlett Performing Arts and Conference Center.

Registration is open through Dec. 16 or until the program reaches capacity, so eager applicants should register now. It is open to youths in grades 7-12. See more information and the registration form online at

All who apply will find a spot on stage, but specific parts will be cast via auditions. TheaterKids shows usually attract a cast of about 30-45 young people. There are plenty of opportunities for cast members, from the orange-faced Oompah Loompahs to the roles of children touring the candy factory.

In Roald Dahl’s musical, enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever shows up with these tickets wins a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats, but the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka’s rules in the factory … or suffer the consequences.

Director Carrie Paulo, a theater arts teacher at Bartlett 9th Grade Academy, said TheaterKids productions like “Willy Wonka” are a great opportunity for hesitant young people to learn about acting and grow their skill sets.

She sees her goal as drawing attention to the theater arts in the Bartlett community. Working together as a cast is bonding, and performing for a live audience is an exhilarating experience that children should get to try.

Paulo said it may sound as dramatic as you might expect from a theater person, but she believes theater probably saved her life by giving her a channel for expression and a place of acceptance.

“I found my people — my tribe,” Paulo said. “It’s absolutely rewarding to see a kid realize there’s a possible outlet.”

She is enthusiastic about the TheaterKids program, which allows children a place to try out acting among peers without the stress of wondering whether they’ll be rejected from the show.

“If they sign up, pay the required fee, they will be in the show,” she said.

The tuition is $100 per participant, which includes a non-refundable $50 deposit. The production is also supported by its sponsor, Hampton Inn & Suites.

Applicants do not need to prepare a song or dance for auditions, Paulo said. Auditions for individual parts will include running through some provided scripts, and the production’s choreographer, Otis, will show the youngsters some dance steps so they can be evaluated on how quickly they grasp the moves.

“Just dress to move,” Paulo advised.

The intensive two months of multiple rehearsals per week will begin Jan. 3 with the performance dates set for 7 p.m. March 23-25 and a matinee at 2:30 p.m. March 26.

Her last words for children who are undecided about applying are to take a chance and don’t miss this opportunity. “We’re going to have a really great time.”

BPACC is located at 3663 Appling Road in Bartlett. For more information about its productions, call (901) 385-6440.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to