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'Willy Wonka,' 'Rent' hit FLOT's stage

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 3:51 pm | Updated: 2:58 pm, Thu Sep 5, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre has announced its performances for the 2013-14 season, both of which are sure to continue the organization’s reputation as one of the premier production companies in Interior Alaska.

The fall season sees FLOT performing “Willy Wonka,” based on the popular book by Roald Dahl, and the Tony-award winning “Rent,” loosely based on the Puccini’s opera, “La Bohème,” as the company’s spring production.

Both performances are expected to be crowd pleasers but for very different reasons.

‘Wonka’

Jennifer Taylor, who was last seen in the role of director when she undertook “The Wizard of Oz” in the fall of 2012, is at the helm of the November production of “Willy Wonka.” While “Wizard” was big — a cast of 55 plus a live dog on stage — she wants to take “Wonka” even further.

“‘Willy Wonka’ is a large cast with both kids and adults, and it’s very true to the book,” she said.

“It’s a family friendly show, and our goal is to top ‘Wizard’ in terms of the number of actors.”

That shouldn’t be a problem, as the casts boasts roles for the mysterious candy man Wonka, his team of Oompa Loompas, townspeople, and of course the children who tour his candy factory, each meeting their demise for essentially being little hellions.

The musical is based on the 1964 book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which was turned into the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” staring Gene Wilder and remade by director Tim Burton in 1995 and starring Johnny Depp in the title role.

Look for Taylor to put her unique directing spin on the roles and subsequent demise of characters Veruca Salt, Mike Teevee, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop.

‘Rent’

FLOT president Kurt Newman is stepping up to direct his first production with the organization in April when “Rent” opens at the West Valley Performing Arts Center.

“Rent” tells the story of impoverished young bohemian artists and musicians struggling to survive in New York City’s lower east side in the 1980s while dealing with drug use, death, the AIDS epidemic and friendship and life among the band of urban city dwellers. The rock musical won the Tony award for best musical in 1996 and was turned into a successful motion picture in 2005.

Audience members have requested “Rent” for several years now when FLOT polls theater-goers on what productions they would like to see performed in Fairbanks.

“That helped me decide that obviously there are enough people coming to our shows that they want to see it,” Newman said.

As far as the production, don’t expect many deviations from the original production. Newman is staying true to the script and plans to perform the piece the way it was written, including the characters coping with HIV and drug use.

“This is 2013,” Newman said. “Those are serious issues even grade school kids are aware of.”

Contact features editor Gary Black at 459-7504, by email at gblack@newsminer.com or on Twitter: @fdnmfeatures.

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