WUSD Summer School Playhouse production of “The Phantom Tollbooth Jr.” July 11-13, 2019

Need a perfect break from the summer heat wave? 

Plan on taking in a performance of the Whitewater Unified School District’s Summer School Playhouse production of “The Phantom Tollbooth Jr.” on July 11 and 12 at 7:00 p.m. and July 13 at 2:00 p.m. in the Whitewater High School Auditorium.

Cast of “The Phantom Tollbooth Jr.”

To order reserved seat tickets at $8 for adults and $5 for students, phone the WHS box office at 262-472-8178. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office beginning one hour before the performance.

Norton Juster’s beloved children’s book, “The Phantom Tollbooth,” is adapted for the stage in this modern tale of a boy who must save the princesses Rhyme and Reason and reunite the brother Kings who rule over the cities of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. Aided by a trusty time-keeping dog, Tock, Milo successfully brings harmony to the Land of Wisdom, finding that everything we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone, and that there is never a reason to be bored in a world full of so many things to discover.

A magnificent group of more than 60 students ranging in age from 6th graders to WHS Class of 2019 graduates put their acting and technical skills to the test under the direction of Jim McCulloch and Musical Director Liz Elliott.

Assisting McCulloch and Elliott are Nathan Broege (Assistant Director), Lynn Lema (Choreography), Kat Dunham (Technical Director), Tony Hansen (Sound Engineer) and Kim Clarksen (Costume Design).

Taking to the stage are Gio Anello, Cha Cha Binagi, Ghati Binagi, Amelia Brokopp, Belkys Comacho-Rivera, Keith Cameron, Caleb Clapper, Emma Clarksen, Olive Coburn, Grace Coleman, Lucy Davis, Alejandra Diaz-Gallegos, Adalyn Frye, Danny Fuller, ­Henry Gehrenbeck, Charlotte Hajewski, Jillian Harkness, Nina Heim, Maggie Jay, Kaia Jones, Josh Kirley, Tai Lin, Ilana Lothes, Alex Martin, Audrey Mayer, Ben McCulloch, Myles Morse, Betzy Palomec, Madisyn Pope, Chris Porcaro, Chloe Prince, Aldo Rodriguez, Cole Schlicher, Nicole Sedmak, Rebecca Sortino, Skylar Staebler, Madison Strickler, Alexandra Sullivan, Evie Troxel, Lucy Troxel, Sami Van Daele, Willow Vogelzang, Anderson Waelchli, Carter Waelchli, Marco Wence, Cosette Wildermuth, Ella Willman, Xavier Zei, and Morgan Zingsheim.

Students serving on the technical side of the production as Stage Managers are Hailey Long and Sophia Walton (Stage Manager) and as Assistant Technical Directors Josie Hintz and Emma Van Daele, along with Payton Bunger, Emerson Dunham, Weston Lema, Ian Long, Kara Long, Abi Olson, Jarvis Porcaro, Aldo Rodriguez, and Kelsey Zingheim.

Following a three-hour rehearsal on July 1, 6th grader Danny Fuller said,  “I think the play’s really fun.”

Sophie Walton, a sophomore, commented, “This is my first year stage managing, and it’s really interesting being on the other side because in the past I’ve been in the cast itself or backstage on the crew.  It’s interesting to see the work that goes into actually directing and producing the show.”

“It’s a challenging and very different show, and it’s one that’s not very well known, so you have to come up with a character by yourself,” noted sophomore Gio Anello, cast in the role of Mathemagician. “You can’t rely on other productions of the show,” Anello continued.  “You go through the script and you try to pick up little mannerisms on what your character’s like.  You have to develop a voice for your character and a mood for how they’re feeling.” Anello added, “My character has to change from angry to not angry and I have to build off of other characters at the same time.”

“The selection of this show took me by surprise, but it has grown on me,” Carter Waelchli, a junior, reported.  “I read ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ when I was a little kid in first or second grade.  Rediscovering the story and all the characters has been a magical experience.” In describing his role as Tock, Waelchli observed, “My character in this show goes on this adventure in this magical land filled with weird creatures,” adding, “In famous shows there are established portrayals of the characters but for a play like this, it’s much more like free form experimentation.  You can move around and try things you wouldn’t really get to try in other, more traditional shows.”

Waelchli also said that the idea of his character is also “absolutely” influenced once rehearsals begin. “At the beginning of rehearsals, the relationship I had with Marco, who plays Milo, was more authoritarian because my character, Tock, is a watchdog.  As the rehearsal schedule has continued and I have embraced the fact that my character is an animal, I’m developing more of a dopey, dog-like persona.”

Freshman Skylar Staebler said, “Theatre is just like one big family. Having everyone together is just so much fun.”

Ella Willman, a junior, pointed out the value of the summer school production for the youngest members of the cast and technical crew:  “One of the great things about the summer musical is that it allows little kids to learn a love of theatre which is very important.”

Photos and Article Submitted by Tom Ganser

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