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‘My Time to Shine’ puts special needs actors in the spotlight

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — A theater program in Hendricks County is offering people with disabilities the opportunity to stand in the spotlight. It’s called ‘My Time to Shine’ at The Biz Academy of Musical Theatre in Avon.

This summer they are preparing to present Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

“I feel fantastic. I feel like I’m walking on air. This is the thing I’ve always wanted,” Brian Ambros said.

He is not only a leader in rehearsals for the rest of the cast, but he’s taking on the lead role as well.

“I play Willy Wonka… I’m honored to play him,” Ambros said.

He’s one of dozens of actors led by director Julie Keys, all with some sort of disability. They’re putting challenges aside to say ‘the candy man can’ and so can they.

“Working with people like them, it’s really fun. Especially with Brian,” Joel Ridenour said.

He is Ambros’ mentor. Each participant has one, a buddy to help along the way.

“I’ll help him when we’re singing or choreography… He’s good at motions, hand motions. He just comes up with those,” Ridenour said.

The mentors are playing small roles, while the ‘My Time to Shine’ program participants take on the bigger roles. One actor even uses an iPad to deliver his lines.

And just as the snozzberries, taste like snozzberries, these performers are surely performers and in a matter of weeks the musical will be ready for the main stage.

“You should expect to see beautiful voices and great talent,” Ambros said.

“I think that they’ll see how everything comes together, it’s something else. It’s really great,” Ridenour said.

The performance is the end goal, but as rehearsals continue and the performers dip into the fantasy of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, it’s what they’re walking away with that might be the real golden ticket.

“Oh, it’s making me real confident,” Ambros said.

The Biz Academy of Musical Theatre in Avon offers the My Time to Shine program free to participants. They will present Willy Wonka on August 19 and 20.