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Willie Wonka and the music factory

LB Productions adapts beloved children's story for Christmas and introduces new girl group



The golden ticket for the upcoming Christmas season is a return to candymaker Willie Wonka and his beloved factory.

Anita Burleson of LB Productions has taken the classic tale by Roald Dahl and turned it into a festive treat.

"It's a Willie Wonka Christmas, an original production," Burleson says.

It comes across almost as a kind of fan fiction, with Burleson enthusiastically building on what is there.

"It begins where the story left off. Charlie Bucket takes over the factory. He's under a lot of pressure because it's a successful business."

Burleson says Charlie, who was the young hero of the original story, wants to prove Willie Wonka's trust in him — but in winning the factory through the golden ticket he has made enemies. These include the other children from the original story, such as Veruca Salt and Violet Beauregarde, and competitor Arthur Slugworth.

Burleson's version of the story also includes the oompa loompas as the only people Willie, and Charlie, could trust.

Charlie is played by Israel De Real.

"In the end, it's the oompa loompas who stay by their sides no matter what," she says.

"There's a lot of conniving and trying to steal the factory again."

The musical's performers are all young participants in LB Productions programming, including dancers, musical theatre pupils and acting students.

Burleson wrote the basic story, with input from the teachers at her school. She describes it as a multi-media production as much as a traditional musical.

There are 65 youngsters in the show, with five or so helpers behind the scenes.

Burleson has also written much of the show's music.

"I wrote a song called "Frenemies", the premise is that we're enemies with a common enemy, so we're friends," Burleson says.

"It shows how they can't stand each other but they're going to work together anyways."

One song from the original music, "Pure Imagination", makes the cut, as does a Michael Jackson song.

"And our hip-hop dancers are doing some Black Eyed Peas, so there's a real mix up of styles to keep it interesting and happening," she says.

LB Productions' teen class has been learning about stage and screen, and will help out with essentials, like lights, managing the stage and as runners.

"We're using different forms of media in the show, which is a bit new, with the addition of the students from our new teen film and acting class. They're filming their portions and the characters interact with the film," Burleson adds.

"I take all the classes and fold it into one show, which is a crazy thing to do. And that was the best way to fit them."

LB Productions launched itself in 2012, and Burleson is happy with the way things have gone. Most recently they moved into Millennium Place.

"It's exciting to say the least. The kids are the main thing. We have a real passion for them and there needs to be an outlet; I don't want to stop with what we are doing. We have more things we want to teach, like physical theatre," she says.

Much of the credit goes to her teaching staff, she says, including writer Rebecca Wood Barrett, Rebecca Peters, and Louise Robinson.

"Because of them the possibilities are endless, so I am very excited," she says.

Also taking part is Burleson's new group of talented girl singers called Cloud 9: Sakura Kawano, Breanna Martindale and Skye Tanner.

"It is a group of three singers, two of which have been with me for years," Burleson says. "I teamed them together and they are doing complicated harmony work in the show, but they also have gigs all over town coming up."

They will also be seen at Bizarre Bazaar at the Whistler Conference Centre on November 29 and 30.

"Willie Wonka is their debut, though not as individuals... they are really sweet girls," says Burleson. "People should look to see them out and about, performing a lot."

A dream of hers is to take her top talents on a trip to perform, possibly overseas.

Burleson says she is doing more with professional bookings around the resort, too.

"Some of these kids are fantastic and they are ready to cross over to semi-professional gigs," she says.

Burleson says this is why she does original shows, to give everyone a chance to be a part.

"All of my kids aged eight and up will get at least one line to say, a little solo to sing," she says.

"It might be a slightly crazy philosophy but everyone gets an opportunity."

Burleson says they sold out the summer camp program they offered and are "certainly chasing their goals down." Winter programs are now available for sign up at www.lbentertainment.com.

Willy Wonka Christmas takes place at Millennium Place on Sunday, Nov. 23, at 1:30 p.m. Adults are $17 and children under 12 are $10. Tickets are available at the Millennium Place box office or whistlerartscouncil.com.


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