London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
For John Iglesias, who once splattered fake blood over the front row of his audience, the opportunity to work with kids and candy was one he couldn’t ignore.
Iglesias, owner of Iglesia Productions, is bringing his take on a classic tale next month with a run of Wonka The Musical, set for the McManus Theatre, Oct. 16-20 and 23-27.
Last year’s production of Evil Dead The Musical caught people’s attention for the fake blood splashed on audiences. This time around, Iglesias said he wanted to continue to keep audiences guessing around what shows he decides to produce.
“When I started this in 2008, I knew that to sustain a living in it I would have to broaden our audience base,” Iglesias said. “We couldn’t just target theatregoers. We had to get young, urban professionals, churches, schools. With Willie Wonka it was something my sister said we needed to do to get kids to come out.”
With this in mind Iglesias has created a special area where family can get an up close look at some not only young actors, but in some cases, children who have never acted before.
“Some of these kids have never been on the stage before, had no theatre experience like Original Kids,” Iglesias said. “So I wanted to do something special for them.”
The Wonka coast is 25 strong, “huge,” as Iglesias said, and therefore required some considerable juggling of schedules to set up rehearsals. With such a large cast having to work on choreography, taking singing lessons, and — in many cases — having never set foot on a stage before, Iglesias said he had his eyes opened by his younger cast members.
“I have never worked with kids before, thought it would be a nightmare with these little divas running around,” Iglesias said. “But the kids, the parents, they have been amazing. We had our first reading at the end of June, some of the kids had already memorized the entire thing. They made the vets all go whoa. So that is why I changed the way I was going to promote the show, it is about the kids. The teaser posters were about the kids.”
Being inexperienced himself when it came to working with children, Iglesias said he worried he would need to be much more literal than he normally is with his actors. When working with his more veteran actors — many of who have worked with the company multiple times — Iglesias said he often just gives them ideas and let’s them run with it. While he had to be somewhat literal with the kids, Iglesias said his young cast members are remarkably strong.
For example, Iglesias praised his youngest cast member, eight-year-old Gwenyth Mclachlan, who is playing Veruca Salt. “She has never had experience before and she is just going to kill it. She’s amazing. The oldest kids we have are I believe 15. They are just great.”
As talented as his actors are, Iglesias said he was also excited for the opportunity to bring Wonka and its colourful cast of characters to the stage. The show has been tweaked somewhat, Iglesias said, to give it a bit more of his company’s trademark edge.
The changes he put in place, Iglesias said, work to strengthen the reasons the story resonated with him in the first place.
“There are so many issues in that book that are prevalent today, gluttony, lust, kids being selfish. I think those issues are prevalent today and I thought that could be my message coming through,” said Iglesias, who changed the story so that when the kids get pulled away, they don’t return. “Who comes back to dance and sing in their place, it’s the parents. So there is this underlying message that if you are bad, you are done.”
Iglesias did say some people have suggested his take on the story “is a little dark,” but that since the script includes some references to zombies, and has Jeff Insell, Scotty from Evil Dead, playing Wonka, “it was an opportunity to have a lot of fun.”
Another change for this show is impacted significantly in Iglesias’ bank account.
His previous shows were financed out of his own pocket, so when HR Downloads and YoYo's Yogurt Café both approached Iglesias about getting involved in the show, he quickly created deals that would benefit both sides.
As HR Downloads makes legal documents available online, Iglesias came up with the idea of having the company make legal documents for the Oompa Loompas, which will be hung on the walls of the Grand Theatre’s Poster Lounge, prior to the show.
Yo Yo’s involvement will be a little tastier as they will be selling a custom Wonka flavour during the run of the show.
“It was really cool to have them approach me. We started talking and it just came together. It had to beneficial for them too,” Iglesias said. “I didn’t want it to just benefit the show. It is just very cool to get the community involved.”
Tickets for Wonka The Musical are available through the Grand Theatre box office. For more information, visit www.iglesiaproductions.com.
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