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Players bring Willy Wonka to stage

Story, Photos and Video by Chris Graham
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Charlie ends up with one of the tickets to take a tour of the famed Willy Wonka chocolate factory, and the experience promises to change his life..

Playing Charlie in the upcoming Waynesboro Players’ production of Willy Wonka is changing the approach for young actor Aaron Crosby.

“Usually a teen-ager is pessimistic about the world, and Charlie is so thankful for everything that he has. I’ve had to adapt what I do to try to portray that mindset,” said Crosby, a senior at Buffalo Gap High School who is starring in the Players’ production of Willy Wonka, which runs May 27-30 at the Louis Spilman Auditorium at Waynesboro High School.

Crosby, who will study theater at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in the fall, is already a veteran of 23 local stage productions. Each has been a learning experience.

“Each show is different, and each different theater company is different,” Crosby said. “The best thing about theater is that you never stop learning. With each show, I learn a little bit more, and it’s all added up over the years.”

The cast includes a Players’ newcomer, Alejandro Rosa, who will bring the eccentric Willy Wonka to life. The Staunton resident has consciously avoided watching the two critically-acclaimed movie versions of the Roald Dahl classic book as he puts his spin on Wonka.

“You don’t want to accidentally copy anything, and you don’t want to mimic anything that has already been done. Gene Wilder did a beautiful job, Johnny Depp did a completely different and beautiful job. You don’t want to be near any of that,” Rosa said.

His approach is one that he admits is maybe “quirky.”

“I went back to the book and read the book, and read about Dahl’s life. Anytime I’m doing a show, I’ll study the show’s history, if I can, and I’ll try to learn about the author, too. I don’t know why, but that always seem to be the way to go. And then just trying to see what my take is on the character and exploring and working with different people to see how it plays out,” Rosa said.

Rosa has high praise for Crosby in the role of Charlie. “He’s a great actor, and will be a great actor,” Rosa said. And both Rosa and Crosby have nothing but kind words for castmate Bob Wright, who plays Charlie’s Grandpa Joe.

Wright is a 35-year veteran of the local community-theater scene who has worked with practically everybody who has ever done a show in Staunton and Waynesboro.

“This has just been a great cast to work with,” said Wright, who will be directing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Oak Grove Theater this summer.

What keeps Wright coming back for more: “The chance to meet new people, and the feeling that you get when you realize that people still want you around.”

“That helps the old ego,” Wright said. “As long as people still want me, I’m fine.”



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