March 18 2013 12:00 AM

'Willy Wonka,' 'Dreamgirls.' 'Once Upon America' open this week

You don’t need a golden ticket and
you certainly don’t need to be an Oompa Loompa to sample the many flavors of
the strange and musical world of Willy Wonka. 

The East Lansing High School Center
for the Performing Arts is offering everyone a chance to meet the Candy Man
himself when the curtain rises on “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” Friday.

Created by children’s literature
legend Roald Dahl, “Willy Wonka” tells the story of young Charlie’s adventure
inside the mysterious factory of the eccentric title character.  The 1971
film adaptation starred Gene Wilder as Wonka and has enchanted audiences young
and old alike with such classic showstoppers as “Pure Imagination” and, of
course, “The Candy Man.”

For East Lansing High School Theatre
Director Mark Shaheen, staging a musical featuring a chocolate river and characters
soaring above the stage has been a challenge.

“There’s so much going on, it’s
really fascinating,” Shaheen said.  “Between the effects and the
choreography and the singing, it’s really a huge effort on all levels.”

Noah Last plays Wonka and Nathan
Hoshal plays Charlie. Technical director Paul Bourne is overseeing the
ambitious visuals, which include video projections created by students.

“It’s very familiar and very
family-friendly,” Shaheen said.  “We’ve all learned so much.”

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate

East Lansing High School Center for
the Performing Arts
509 Burcham Dr., East Lansing.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m; Wednesday, March 23 at 7 p.m.
Through March 27
$10 adults; $5 students; Wednesday
tickets all $5
(517) 333-7490


The musical “Dreamgirls” may have
premiered 30 years ago and depict a 1960s-era group but, according to director
Daryl Thompson, it’s a story that never goes out of style. “It’s timeless — it’s about young
friends getting together to pursue their dreams,” he said.

Thompson is at the helm of the
Everett High School Visual & Performing Arts Magnet Academy’s new
production, opening Wednesday.

“Dreamgirls” tells the story of R&B trio The Dreams as
they find success, even as the group is torn apart by the challenges posed by
the music industry.  The show, inspired by the real-life saga of Diana
Ross and the Supremes and Motown Records,  won the Tony award for best musical
in 1982. In 2006, it was adapted for the screen and netted Jennifer Hudson a
best supporting actress Oscar as fan-favorite Effie. Effie’s signature number
“And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going” is regarded as the play’s showstopper and
has been recorded by numerous artists.

Thompson credits his “fantastic cast”
with injecting life into the classic story. They’re awesome – excellent singers
and actors,” he said.  “They’re really pouring their hearts into it.”

“Dreamgirls” stars Amber Love, Sierra
Willoughby, Ashlee Smith, Sineh Wurie, Mickale Nelson, Michael Rose, Brandon
Telfor and Jamilia Johnson.

Everett High School Department of
3900 Stabler St., Lansing
7 p.m. March 16-18
(517) 755-4444

“Once Upon America” and “The Boy Who
Cried Bully”

It’s two for the price of one at the
Mid Michigan Famiy Theatre this weekend as it offers up a pair of one-act plays.
“Once Upon America”, a historical drama, and “The Boy Who Cried Bully,” an
updated take on an Aesop’s fable, debut Friday.

“America” follows a trio of immigrants at early 1900s Ellis
Island, while “Bully” depicts a couple of modern-day kids dealing with bullies
on their school playground.

“Once Upon America” and “The Boy Who
Cried Bully”

Mid Michigan Family Theatre
440 Frandor Ave., Lansing
7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m.
Sundays, through March 27
$6 students and adults, $4 pre-school

(517) 339-2145