Song and dance will ring out at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle this weekend with the arrival of the annual Teen Summer Musical. The show runs through Sunday.

Since 1997, the performing-arts program has focused on teaching and showcasing a cast of Seattle students, primarily youth of color, through adaptations of popular American tales.

“Welcome to the CD! That stands for the Chocolate District,” say the narrators at the beginning of “Uncle Willy’s Chocolate Factory,” this year’s production.

It’s a fresh take on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” featuring original songs and a plot line Seattleites know all too well.

Den’ea Simone, co-programmer and production stage manager, says that the chocolate factory itself is modeled after the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood, which has experienced a wave of gentrification.

In the show, Uncle Willy’s Chocolate Factory goes from being a community hub in the Central District to being threatened closure because of the changing neighborhood.


Simone, who lives in the Central District and has participated in Teen Summer Musical for all but four shows since it began, said it is a vital program, particularly as Seattle is booming.

“If you don’t pass on that torch, it can get lost and fade into the background,” she said.

With gentrification comes hard feelings from longtime residents who feel overlooked or dismissed, she added.

“We want to make it known to the residents that are still there that we’re here, we’re staying, and we want to preserve what was built on the shoulders of our ancestors.”

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