"Willy Wonka": Golden ticket show starring special needs perform - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

"Willy Wonka": Golden ticket show starring special needs performers

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – “Willy Wonka" is set to take the stage at the Lyceum Theater in Horton Plaza next month, but there’s something unique about this show.

The cast is mostly made up of actors with special needs.

The show will be put on by Arms Wide Open and Arts in Motion which helps create a voice for kids and adults with autism and Down syndrome.

Daniel Long, 28, has been singing before he could speak and memorize lines. “”Golden Ticket” is my favorite number. It feels like I am in New York – Broadway baba!”

Willy Wonka’s Charlie Bucket will be played by seven-year-old Lucy Laudner who has autism. “This is the most amazing studio I’ve been to,” she said.

The studio is Arts in Motion in El Cajon which partnered with Arms Wide Open, a non-profit that provides opportunities in the arts for people with special needs.

In the past ten years, Chris Rubio has directed eight productions. His brother has low-functioning special needs and said preforming breaks the barriers of all disabilities.

“It’s not just actors on stage. Every single one of them has a disability and they overcome it,” said Rubio, who is the director for “Willy Wonka.”

For parents, when their child is on stage, they forget their limitations.

Patti Long is the costume designer but also has a child in the production. “Preforming just brings him to life and he loves these kids and Chris.”

The program began ten years ago with 30 cast members and has grown to 90 – with many of the role double casted to give everyone an opportunity.

“We push their limits and let them know whether they are lead role or back up dancer. Everyone is a star,” said Rubio.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help with show production costs. 

Opening night is set for Friday, March 2nd at the Lyceum Theater in downtown San Diego. Click here for show times.

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