Though it’s true an apple seed is tiny, there’s nothing small about Appleseed Community Theatre in La Crescent, Minnesota.
That reality especially shines through when summer brings the theatre’s biggest production of the year. This season it’s a fantastical musical, “Willy Wonka,” based on Roald Dahl’s classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
As soon as the final school bell rings, students, community members and many others hit the rehearsal stage. “With the summer musical, we strive to include all ages, from kindergartners to 99-year-olds,” says Bob Pitel, president of Appleseed Community Theatre’s board of directors. “We have a larger cast and a more elaborately designed set.”
About 50 performers will spin the zany tale of Charlie, who wins a golden ticket to tour an extraordinary chocolate factory. He brings Grandpa Joe, and together they go on a one-of-a-kind adventure with other crazy characters. They’re sure to meet the Oompa-Loompas as they visit the mysterious operations filled with tempting sweets and strange inventions. Get ready to tap your feet to catchy popular songs, such as “The Candy Man,” accompanied by a wonderful 20-person orchestra.
Directed by Nick Brandt, two weekends of “Willa Wonka” will be held at the La Crescent High School Fine Arts Center on July 21-23 and July 28-30. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon performances start at 2 p.m.
“We’ve been very excited about the productions we’ve been able to do,” says Pitel, who served on the board when the theatre was founded in 2002, and has served as president since 2005. “We’ve done some unique shows.”
Appleseed audiences look forward to fun theatre in the summer, such as last July’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Other big summer shows included “Oliver,” “Annie,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the theatre’s first summer musical in 2003.
The summer musical productions bring the community together; actors, directors, musicians, choreographers, stage crew and others become like one big family.
Summer doesn’t end with the main musical production, though. In August, youth continue to pursue their passion for drama in a three-week camp and then perform “Music Man Kids,” on Friday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m.
Appleseed partners with the La Crescent-Hokah School District to hold its shows in the high school’s fine arts center. In turn, the theatre includes service in its tremendous efforts, such as awarding an annual $500 scholarship to a La Crescent-Hokah graduating senior.
The 14-member board meets monthly to take on tasks, such as determining future shows and hiring production teams. The board members also sell tickets, usher and help with the productions in any way they can. They make plans that go year-round, starting in January with a play for elementary students related to a book, such as “Flat Stanley,” that hopefully inspires young people to read. This past spring, audiences enjoyed “My Fair Lady,” which sweetened the stage for “Willy Wonka.”
For more information on Appleseed Community Theatre, visit www.appleseedtheatre.org or Facebook. Tickets are available online at www.willy.brownpapertickets.com; Quillin’s in La Crescent; Festival Foods in Onalaska and both La Crosse locations; and at the box office a half-hour before each show.