Rather than buying “scrumptious candy bars” as part of their quest to find “golden tickets” and win a free tour of Willy Wonka's “mysterious chocolate factory” and “a lifetime supply of candy,” nearly 30 local children auditioned to be “contestants” cast in the upcoming production of “Willy Wonka Jr.”

The Community School of the Art’s Children’s Theatre program is open to students in first through sixth grade, according to the website, csafortsmith.org. For a fee of $300, students can attend bi-weekly classes, the website states.

They will all be cast in the show selected for the semester, said Thesa Loving, director of the children’s program. They audition to determine their individual part in the play, she said.

The “scrumdiddlyumptious musical guaranteed to delight everyone’s sweet tooth” will take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at the King Opera House, 427 Main St. in Van Buren, said Dr. Rosilee Russell, founder and executive director of the school. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for children 10 and younger and $7 each for groups of 10 or more and can be purchased at csafortsmith.org.

Students from area schools will be bused to see the performance prior to the show opening to the public, Russell said.

The production “features songs from the 1971 film (the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”) starring Gene Wilder” as well as “a host of fun new songs,” Russell said. The music is all great, and “every child around will be singing” and dancing, she said.

Wonka is looking to retire. He has worked his entire life building the chocolate factory, Loving said. Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka Jr.” follows Wonka as the contestants compete, unbeknownst to them, to be Wonka’s heir to the factory.

Carter Tecmire of Fort Smith plays the leading role, Willy Wonka, said Loving. Tecmire also plays the candy man, who is actually Wonka in disguise, Loving said.

Four of the five children who find the “golden tickets” are “insufferable brats,” Russell said. “The fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket.” Wonka’s “rules in the factory” must be obeyed by the children, or they will suffer consequences.

The “likeable young lad” is “a very generous” person (Ryder Mack of Greenwood). He is accompanied throughout the factory tour by “his equally amiable grandfather,” Grandpa Joe (Aden Grady of Fort Smith), Russell said.

The four “insufferable brats” include one contestant who wants “anything money can buy,” Loving said. Veruca Salt is played by Peyton Sosebee of Fort Smith, Loving said. Lydia Bickerton of Fort Smith plays Salt’s mom. “An older brat” herself, Mrs. Salt “has not taught her daughter not to be a brat,” Loving said.

Still another “brat”/contestant, Violet Beauregarde (Ellie Caruthers of Fort Smith) loves bubble gum and has an excellent voice, Loving said.

Over and again, Loving commented on the voices of the children. “Boy, he’s got a voice,” she said about one. An “excellent voice,” she said about another. “Again, an excellent voice,” she said. “I can’t wait” to hear their “trained voices,” she said.

Contestant Mike Teavee (Ty Adair of Fort Smith) is a “really, really smart kid,” who is obsessed with television, Loving said. His mom, Mrs. Teavee, is played by Jasmine Washington of Fort Smith.

Augustus Gloop (Samuel Owenby of Fort Smith), a contestant also, loves food, and he song is “Eat More.” Her mom (Susanna McDonald of Hackett) is of German descent, and they both have a German accent, Loving said.

The reporter, Fiona Trout (Brianna Belt of Alma), is reporting the news about the worldwide competition, and she is on stage throughout the performance, Loving said.

Sarah Goodman of Fort Smith, a sixth grader, plays “several different parts,” including Bucket’s grandmother, she said. She also doubles as an Oompa Loompa, a squirrel and more. She played in “Seussical the Musical” as well.

“She’s a real sharp kid” and “very level headed,” Loving said. “I’m glad she is part of us. I enjoy working with her.”

Students who have been involved with plays previously are a “little more polished,” Russell said. It “has nothing to do with talent,” she said. They are at “different levels of experience,” and the “ones who have never performed on stage observe those who have.”

There is nothing like getting out there on the stage and being confident, said Loving, an actor herself. “It all pays off. It’s a wonderful thing for a director to watch these kids grow,” Loving said.

“I am just so excited that we have these children’s programs,” Russell said. The children grow, they blossom and their personalities develop.

Goodman has wanted to “be an actor” since she was in third or fourth grade, she said. Her favorite part of theatre is “getting to know people and dancing,” she said. She especially loves the costumes, too. “Sometimes, I have to get very dramatic,” she said. She uses facial expressions and her voice to convey emotions.

Participants select an area they believe is weak, and Goodman “wanted to strengthen what she thought was her weakest area” with private voice lessons, Goodman’s mother, Jo Goodman, said.

The younger Goodman said she “reads her lines a lot” trying to “get used to” her characters.