Adding color, sparkle to a magical show

Behind-the-scenes volunteers devote countless hours to helping bring Wonka and crew to life

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Adding color, sparkle to a magical showPictured: Cast and crew of Willy Wonka Junior (front, from left) Marla Cosner, Leisha Wetzel, (back)?Mallory Cosner, Sandie Dickey, Heather Arnts and?Tina French show some of the colorful costumes, sets and props that were hand crafted for the show. — Photo by Laura Austin


Next week, the cast and crew of “Willy Wonka Junior” will transport their audience to a “world of pure imagination.” But if the many collaborators in Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society’s upcoming Rising Stars production have done their job, no one will be thinking about the behind-the-scenes work that went into breathing life into the show.

“As with all of our Rising Stars shows, the heart and soul of ‘Willy Wonka’ are the scores of talented kids who have poured their time and talents into our story,” said Director Marla Cosner. “But the backbone of this show is all the moms, dads, siblings, grandparents and other volunteers who have been working alongside these kids to pull together sets, props, costumes, makeup and all the other little details that go into a show.”

The children’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic story is loosely based on the original film and includes many of the popular songs that have endured for nearly half a century.

When the mysterious Willy Wonka (portrayed by Jason Ertl) opens his chocolate factory to five lucky Golden Ticket winners (Justin Bal, Gabriel Honeywell, Joey Cannon, Tabitha Goodman and Rachel Wetzel), spectators get to share in the magical journey.

Bringing to life the inside of Wonka’s whimsical factory took a lot of color, creativity — and glitter.

“Like, hundreds of dollars worth of glitter,” joked Heather Arnts, who got involved when her daughter was cast. “I knew I wanted to help, but I had no idea how much work goes into a show like this.”

Arnts denies any particularly creative bent, but her meticulous attention to detail made her a go-to for some of the show’s intricate props and scenery.

“Basically, I was assigned a project. And I guess I did a good job because I kept getting assigned more things to do.”

“We love Heather!” Cosner interjected.

“I just like for things to look nice,” said Arnts. “And I like being able to see them on stage, look at them from all the angles and figure out what we can do to make it even better. You’re going to see a lot of vivid, sparkling color. I think it’s going to be really fun when we are all done!”

Sandy Dickie has been costuming the Rising Stars of RMES since their first show.

“I think costumes was just what they needed,” she said of finding her calling. “But it’s a really fun, creative job.

“Especially for the children’s productions, I think it’s so important for them to feel comfortable and special on stage — that’s what really allows them to play with their part and get into character.”

While many of the leads and the ensembles will contribute to the explosion of color in the show, Dickie noted that the production team is also using distinct color palettes to shape the tone of each scene — popping neon for the candy kids, drab and earthy hues for the down-on-their-luck Bucket family and saturated tones for the Oompa Loompas.

“I was able to come up with a concept for a lot of the costumes, but for some I gave just a little bit of direction to parents and waited to see what they came up with,” she said. “My favorite ended up being the dress for Lilah Benckenorf, who play’s Mike Tevee’s mom. She has this stunning yellow-and- black graphic design that is just perfect for her character!”

Other parents went hunting through attics, thrift shops and boutiques to help outfit the cast, and a fleet of seamstresses and artisans contributed countless hours to help meet the other costuming needs.

“One parent could not do this — you definitely need a team!” said Dickie.

Tina French got involved with RMES because her daughter, Devyn, was seeking a performance venue.

“I started out small, and just did a little more with each show,” said French.

“But it’s so cool getting to see how the magic happens!” she added. “The directors have a vision for the show, and we all brainstorm about how we can do everything, but I think the best part is that the kids are involved in everything. They have ownership, and the adults are right there alongside helping.”

French said she loves the team mentality. “We just do what needs to be done, and people seem to be really great about jumping in and helping. I’m not creative, but I tell people, ‘Tell me exactly where to sprinkle the glitter, and I can do it!’

“It’s an amazing process to watch … and you know that everything you do on tech days is just going to enhance the magic of what the kids are doing on stage.”

“This is the largest cast we have ever had for a Rising Stars production,” said Cosner. “And we really have a great support team that has come together to fill in wherever they are needed.”

“Willy Wonka” opens Thursday, March 22, 6:30 p.m., at the Burroughs High School Parker Performing Arts Center. The show continues Friday, March 23, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 24, at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2018-03-16