Chocolate lover? Fond of seeing talented kids on stage? Well, rush over to The Arts Barn in Gaithersburg for KAT Junior and The City of Gaithersburg’s co-production of Willy Wonka Jr., and catch one of their last two performances tomorrow, Sunday, March 29th, at 11 am or 2 pm. It’s a delightful adaptation based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, that will have you ready to “Think Positive” and appreciate the “Pure Imagination” of the staging by Director David Fialkoff.
Anyone of a certain age will fondly recall hearing “The Candy Man” song on the radio, sung here by the debonair Willy Wonka (Jonathan E. Evans) and an ensemble of energetic grade schoolers. It has pep, it has a cart of kids’ favorite sweets, and the chorus will stay in your head as you leave the theater with a smile on your face.
Come cheer on Charlie Bucket (well played by Lyndsie Lewis) as he miraculously finds the final “golden ticket” to tour the amazing chocolate factory that has been off-limits to the public for years. His chaperone, Grandpa Joe (David Robinson), has some shining moments as he sings encouragement to Charlie and their song and dance on “Flying” is comical and bubbly. Along their journey, they outlast the 4 other kids who also won this chance to be with Willy Wonka – an obnoxiously obsessed gum chewer, Violet Beauregard, (Danielle Berman), a jaded TV and electronic game wiz, Mike Teavee (Mason Lipczenko), a spoiled, demanding Daddy’s Girl, Veruca Salt (Zoe Lee) and the gluttonly gleeful Augustus Gloop (Zack Leibovitch). Each one disobeys Willy Wonka’s directives to not touch or eat what tempts them. The Oompa-Loompas weigh in with verses of a catch tune to convey moral lessons with each kid’s sudden departure. There’s a terrifically happy ending, of course, as the “Finale” is sung with heart by Wonka and the entire cast.
The stage may be small, and the performers are many, but there’s some clever stagecraft going on – background projections take the audience to many locations, including interiors of the chocolate factory. A pink candy boat ride becomes freaky and psychedelically lit thanks to the dancing ensemble. Take notice of how the Oompa-Loompas are situated to show how short they are. Costuming creativity enhances the show as well– Charlie’s Dad (Bertrand Delpierre) has toothpaste appropriately smeared on his factory work clothes, Wonka’s purple velvet blazer is dapper with his bow tie and sparkly top hat, and the little dog in Veruca’s purse is a nice touch. Oh! And let’s not forget the SQUIRREL!
Other standout performances are given by Sophia Marie Anthony, as Grandma Georgina and as an Oompa Loompa, and Melissa Law as Mrs. Gloop. She and the other adult actors sing well and add to the humor. They help keep the pace at a nice clip with 21 songs in just under 70 minutes.
Willy Wonka JR has music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, and was adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald.
Zoom over to the Gaithersburg Arts Barn tomorrow and treat yourself to a sweet time at Willy Wonka Jr, a timeless tale and family favorite for sure.
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Willy Wonka Jr. has two more performances remaining tomorrow, March 29, 2015 at 11 AM and 2 PM at The Gaithersburg Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.past decade and studied theater at The Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Ithaca College.