September 25th, 2018

Hat High presents a world of pure imagination with ‘Willy Wonka’

By Chris Brown on December 1, 2017.

Cast members rehearse a scene from "Willy Wonka" at Medicine Hat High School on Wednesday. The play runs Dec. 8-10 and 15-17.

Medicine Hat High School has a sweet show coming up this month.

The school kicks off its 2017/18 drama season with “Willy Wonka,” opening Dec. 8 and closing Dec. 17 after eight shows.

The sizable cast and crew has been hard at work for weeks and has become a close group.

“We’re very tight-knit and we very much help each other, said Melanie Friesen, who is playing Veruca Salt this week at rehearsal. “We have group chats that we talk to each other and help each other out.”

Even those with smaller roles are involved and supported as much as possible and made to feel important, she said.

Lucas Dos Santos Filipe, in the title role, agrees and credits Friesen specifically with helping him through rough patches.

“Every day we run through all of my lines,” he said. “She is actually my support. Whenever I get nervous or something like that she calms me down … That’s something I need since I’m new.”

He doesn’t mean new to the stage, though his past work is limited to small roles. Dos Santos Filipe is new to Canada, spending the semester at Hat High on an exchange from Brazil.

A self-described huge fan of the arts, he was interested when he first heard about the school’s drama program and calls the experience so far amazing and very rich.

The duo says the stage show stays close to the 1971 Gene Wilder film with a few updates to make it more relevant to the 21st century audience and a few tweaks necessary when a movie is brought to the stage. For instance the colourful and large set pieces of the chocolate factory from the movie aren’t on the stage.

“We are making it colourful by reacting to how beautiful everything is,” said Friesen, who appeared in last year’s “Peter and the Starcatcher.” “The real wonder is (the audience) looking at us and seeing how wonder-filled we are instead of just ‘oh there’s some candy on stage.'”

Shows run at 7 p.m. Dec. 8-10 and 15-17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9 and 16. The Dec. 16 matinee is a sensory-friendly performance, described as being “presented in a ‘Lights up, sound down’ environment, without strobe lights, smoke machines, and other startling effects. Theatre doors will remain open throughout the performance.”

Advance tickets, $15 plus service charge, are available at, by calling 403-502-8777, and in person at the Esplanade box office or the Medicine Hat Mall customer service desk. They are also available at the door for $15.

Parking is available next to the theatre’s north lot.

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