The candy man makes the world taste good, and he does a pretty good job with “Willy Wonka Junior,” to be presented at 7 p.m. today and Saturday in Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.

The candy man makes the world taste good, and he does a pretty good job with “Willy Wonka Junior,” to be presented at 7 p.m. today and Saturday in Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.
Forty members of the Pittsburg Family YMCA Show Biz Kids, ranging in age from 5 to 14, perform in the show, which is based on the children’s classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. The show was adopted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy A. McDonald.
Barbara Hilt, director, said that the cast began working on the show in September, putting  in two hours every Saturday.
“For the past two weeks we’ve been trying to practice every day, but we did miss some because of the weather,” she said.
She added that the script was challenging for the young performers.
“This is a hard show,” Hilt said. “There are a lot of songs for the kids to learn and sing, and hard words in the dialogue. They’ve really done a fantastic job.”
Kenton Piatt plays Willy Wonka, the candy maker who is tired and wants to retire — but how can he deprive the world of his delicious chocolate? He devises a scheme to choose a possible successor, and sends out five gold tickets concealed in chocolate bars.
Five youngsters get them, and they are a very mixed group. Augustus Gloop, played by Anthony Verga, is a hefty German boy devoted to eating.
“Augustus has lived in the dining room since he was born,” says his mother, played by Emily Wood.
Then there’s Veruca Salt, played by Brittany Wilde, a spoiled brat who gets everything she wants, thanks to her wealthy daddy, played by Ivan Walter. Emily Curlee is Violet Beauregarde, who can’t live without a glob of chewing gum in her mouth. Her mother is  played by Emily Weston. Mike Teavee doesn’t even really want to visit the Wonka candy factory, because it would take away time he could be watching his precious TV.
Last ticket holder is Charlie Bucket,  played by Michael Balk, a sweet, honest boy from a very poor family that includes dad Jacob Drenick, mother Samantha Scales, Grandma Josephine played by Bailey Bennett, Grandma Georgina played by Courtney Endicott, Grandpa George, played by Jordan Wilson, and Grandpa Joe, played by McCauley Windsor, who encourages Charlie to think positive.
“Being in the show is awesome,” said Windsor, who added that he can’t wait until the actual performances begin in front of real audiences.
There’s just one minor drawback for him.
“Pulling off Grandpa Joe’s eyebrows hurts,” he said.
As the five ticket winners tour the Wonka factory, they are weeded out. Veruca is judged a “bad nut” and sent to the garbage incinerator, and Violet gets hold of some untested gum and swells up like a giant blueberry. Augustus Gloop falls in a river of chocolate, and Mike Teavee is miniaturized.
That leaves only Charlie. He did drink a forbidden bubbly drink, but admits his error and apologizes to Wonka. Will that be enough to get him a happy ending?
The cast also includes Alyssa Patterson, Abigail Spachek and, as adorable Oompa-Loompahs, Krishel VanShaar, Cassie Hurt McLarty, Tabitha Claey, Ana Marie Minton, Maddy Emerson, Alora Spencer, Simon Walter, Delaney Cedeno, Max Dresner, McKenna Shaw, Ethan Warner, Payton Kannarr, Sadie Rose VanShaar, Devin Madison, Madyn Petty, Jeff Schremmer, Kaitlyn Hanks, Marlea Tierney, Sapphire Blakemore, Andrew Lomshek and Libby Vogel.
Choreography was done by  Shelley VanShaar and Hilt. A former Branson, Mo., entertainer, VanShaar also shared many show biz tips with the youngsters.
“Parents helped with all the candy on stage, and the kids painted on the candies when they were off stage,” Hilt said. “They’ve all put in a lot of time on this.”
The show is suitable for all family members.
“Tickets are $3, and we’ve still got some floor seating as well as the balcony,” Hilt said. “They can be bought in advance, but they’ll certainly be available at the door.”