LAKE PLACID - Who do you blame when your kid is a brat? Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat?
If you ask an assemblage of Oompa Loompas those questions you'll learn that blaming the kids is a "lion of shame." The mother and father, of course, are to blame.
That and other hard-learned life lessons are just one slice of Willy Wonka's candy factory tour, but residents here don't need a golden ticket to be a part of it.
David Mihill, left, and Cooper Holmes get used to flying as they practice their roles for “Willy Wonka, the Musical” at the Lake Placid High School. (Photo — Shaun Kittle)
Beginning Friday night, audience-goers can watch as five families, led by Wonka, explore the inner workings of the factory and get their just deserts during Lake Placid High School's presentation of "Willy Wonka the Musical."
The play, based on the classic 1964 Roald Dahl novel, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," tells the story of five children - Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee and Charlie Bucket - who each find a golden ticket hidden within a Wonka Bar wrapper. The children each embody a characteristic that Wonka despises, except for Charlie, who is honest, generous and caring about others.
"I like that Charlie is so dirt poor, but it doesn't show because he's so happy all the time," said actor Zach Richards. "He makes everyone around him feel good. He's always positive, even when things get tough."
Richards, who is in sixth grade, has been in 11 other plays over the course of his short career. He said two of his favorite roles were Pinnochio and Charles Baker "Dill" Harris from "To Kill a Mockingbird." Richards will share the role of Charlie with Cooper Holmes. The actors will alternate nights.
Four of the actors - David Mihill as Grandpa Joe, Billy Waldy as Augustus Gloop, and both Charlies - will be hoisted into the air during parts of the performance by Flying by Foy, a company that specializes in designing equipment used to hoist actors and actresses into the air.
That company also did work for the high school's production of Peter Pan at the Lake Placid Performing Center for the Arts in 2011.
"We come in and look at the space, and the structure of the space, to make sure it's all safe things that we can rig to," said Ryan McAlpine. "The main thing is to make sure it's fun and safe for the kids to eventually be on."
Play director Kimberly Weems said she didn't choose to put on "Willy Wonka the Musical"; the play chose her.
"I was looking for something that involved a large group of students," Weems said. "This one picked me because I was looking for something that would involve multiple ages, since we had invited both middle school and high school students to participate in the musical. I also like it because the music is very simple and the acting is very much in keeping with how the story has been told. It's kids playing kids."
Weems said part of the fun is watching the characters misbehave.
"The bad kids are so bad, and the parents are just so miserable," Weems said. "It's a lot of fun to watch kids being so bad."
The roles are demanding, as each kid and parent combo emulates a specific set of character traits like greed and gluttony. Weems said she was fortunate in that she had a large pool of talented students to pull from to make that happen.
Perhaps most challenging is the role of the sarcastically cheerful and subtly menacing Willy Wonka, the sole proprietor of the candy factory. That character will be played by Tony Miller.
"Willy is distant because people have made him distant," Weems said. "He's closed down his factory because people have stolen his inventions. He's been ill-used by society, and for that reason he has sort of a wry way of dealing with these children and their parents."
In the end, Willy is transformed into a relieved shadow of his former self when he realizes Charlie is worthy of running his factory.
"The first act is very bleak and dark," Weems said. "In the second act, when we go into the factory, it's a burst of color. The factory is every color in the rainbow, and it's heavily decorated with candy."
Volunteer builders constructed the candy factory set, which will come to life for audiences with the help of stage fog, bubbles and the smell of chocolate.
A nine-piece orchestra of professional local musicians consisting of piano, brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion will perform the play's music.
Attendees can also get their hands on Wonka Bars and gigantic, 2-pound Gummi Bears.
"We want everyone to feel like they're in the factory," Weems said.
"Willy Wonka the Musical" will be performed in the Lake Placid High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 13-15. There is also a children's matinee at 11 a.m. Saturday. Candy and prizes will be available to all children present.
Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students.