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‘Wonka’ cast takes last bow in Batavia

BATAVIA – For at least one 11-year-old Sugar Grove boy this summer, the script of “Willy Wonka Jr.” was bedtime reading.

And for good reason: Rob Luedtke had secured the part of Mike Teavee in the Avenue J Studios production, which ended a four-show run Sunday at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre. Soon after the cast of 5- to 17-year-olds took their final bow downstage, the kids rushed to the lobby, where their family awaited, some with bouquets of flowers and other congratulatory items.

The TV-obsessed character of Mike Teavee was Rob’s first theatrical role, and reading the script before he went to bed helped him learn his lines, he said.

Rehearsals for the musical began in June and generally were held multiple days a week so the cast could focus on various aspects, such as the blocking, music and choreography, said Jennifer Madziarczyk, managing director of Elburn-based Avenue J Studios.

Because so many children auditioned, she said, they were split into two casts who performed two shows each.

Rob said he prepped for his role by watching the both film versions of the Roald Dahl story and described his involvement with the play as “super fun.”

“I made a ton of friends,” he said.

Onstage, Rob’s Mike Teavee joined the other golden ticket holders – Charlie Bucket, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop – in a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Although the Batavia Fine Arts Centre had plenty of room for the cast – at one point during Wonka’s tour they even walked through the audience – Madziarczyk said their rehearsal space wasn’t as spacious. The 850-square-foot space for the cast of its size was, she said, “quite challenging.”

Avenue J Studios is planning a move to North Aurora, Madziarczyk said. She said the target date is Oct. 1.

The youth theater is working on another production in time for Halloween, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Werewolf.” Auditions have passed, but Madziarczyk said there is still time for children to get involved, whether in an onstage or behind-the-scenes role.

It will feature at least one stage veteran – Rob, who when asked if he would want to continue acting in plays, said, “Yeah, yeah totally.”

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