Come with Cherry Hill High School East’s young thespians into a world of pure imagination for four performances of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the stage play based on the Roald Dahl children’s book that was adapted for a 1971 film starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.
Imagination begins during rehearsal, when actors move beyond line recitations and scene blocking and begin to piece together their characters, something co-directors Pete Gambino and Sandi Makofsky drilled home when the Sun visited rehearsal on Nov. 9.
Helped along by a purple pneumatic suit, freshman Kate Bove tackles the role of Violet Beauregarde, whose impulsiveness results in comedic circumstances. Needing to act out the role of a girl who swells up to the size of a blueberry and needs to be rolled offstage, Bove admitted it would have been hard to sell with only a suspension of disbelief.
“It was weird at first, but I kind of got used to it after being in it for the whole time,” she noted of the suit she wears in the show. “It just brought the character to life more, to have that piece added on. It would have been really weird to do it without the suit.”
Theater is often cited as an escape from the real world, something the young men and women involved with the East production readily acknowledge. But rehearsing and performing a well-known work like “Charlie,” despite its lighthearted spirit, requires a lot of work on body language, voice inflection and movement that can be daunting at times to integrate.
Senior Ava Klinger found inspiration in remembering who will be in the audience when the work is done.
“The other day we had a guest speaker who said that kids are the best audience you could have. Kids want to be entertained,” said Klinger, who plays Mrs. Teevee. “You get to be in a show where kids want to believe, where they’re not going to question things, they’re not nitpicking or going to judge.”
Here’s the rub: The cast is not only rehearsing in close quarters wearing masks, but will perform in them as well, a unique technical and personal challenge.
Junior Miranda Rosenbaum, who plays Veruca Salt, stressed the importance of learning how to physically embody a character so the audience understands its motivations and behavior.
“If you’re able to portray the purpose of what the character is feeling, and their reasoning for acting the way they do, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a mask or not,” she revealed. “Through your voice and body language, you’ll express these emotions and the purpose.”
Rachel Hornstein added that while a mask is a clear barrier, it might end up helping her craft the portrayal of Mrs. Salt, since all voice and movement for the characters need to be overdramatic and exaggerated to communicate the comedy in each scene.
Senior Charlie Bove carries much of the action as the titular Charlie who visits Wonka’s factory. His biggest challenge came in realizing how to interpret the role and adapt his acting style to the confined space of the theater, as opposed to what he knows of the character from the iconic movie version.
“When we’re acting, all of our movements have to be bigger, all of our voices have to be bigger to capture the attention of the children in the audience,” he explained. “There has to be a lot more character acting instead of dramatic acting.
“In a typical play, you’re not bouncing around and being loud and doing all this stuff. Here, that’s OK because it’s what the characters do anyway,” he added.
Show dates and times are as follows: Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 11, 2 p.m. (with character meet and greet after the show); Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.; and Dec. 12, 2 p.m. (with another meet and greet after the show).
All performances will take place at Cherry Hill High School East Auditorium.
Tickets can be purchased for $12 beginning Nov. 20 at www.showtix4u.com.