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USF’s “Willy Wonka” enthralls audience

Over 4,000 children, family members and friends packed the USF Performing Arts Center the last two weekends in March to see USF’s production of “Willy Wonka.”

USF collaborated on the show with the Fort Wayne Youtheatre and DeBrand Fine Chocolate. Enthralled kids watched other children perform and took home their own Wonka Bars from the show. Children attending also received tickets in a drawing for a 10-piece DeBrand tasting collection, awarded at the end of each show. One winner from all of the golden ticket winners then won a chocolate party at DeBrand.

The Fort Wayne Youtheatre troupe of youthful performers knocked viewers out with their solos, acting and choreography. Blue-haired OompaLoompas as young as 5 or 6 danced and moved precisely about the stage in colorful, choreographed numbers.

It took a while for the Oompa Loompas to learn to dance so well, said Cassandra Smith, an 8-year-old from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Fort Wayne. “We practiced it for three months about a billion times. We went one row at a time, and when we made a mistake, we started over.”

School of Creative arts props builders created colorful, eye-popping sets that provided a fun visual feast for the audiences, and children related to the story of a poor and honest boy who wins out over a group of greedy and grasping children to claim the Wonka chocolate factory for his family.

A pre-production meet-and-greet and “Wonka Tour” at DeBrand on Auburn Road ramped up excitement for the show to come, offering tasting tours through the DeBrand kitchens, led by DeBrand employees in Oompa Loompa wigs. Visitors also enjoyed a dance by the Fort Wayne Youtheatre Oompa Loompas.

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