It is astounding what YST is able to produce after a two week summer theatre camp! Casting, blocking, learning songs, learning their lines, creating an entire set, costumes, lighting cues and voila! A bona fide show and one that I had never seen before outside of the movie version. Turns out putting the Oompa Loompas, Willy Wonka, the golden ticket winners and Charlie’s family on stage is a natural fit and makes for a magical and really funny musical. All your favorite songs are here; The Candy Man, Pure Imagination, Cheer Up Charlie, plus a few new songs.
The story centers around a poor boy, Charlie, who lives with his parents and both sets of grandparents who are all bedridden. As with all Roald Dahl stories, the characters are colorful and eccentric. The mysterious Willy Wonka, who has the world’s most famous chocolate factory, has created a contest whereby five golden tickets are hidden in Wonka bars. The lucky golden ticket winners are invited to tour his factory and receive a lifetime supply of chocolate.
Spoiler alert, after we meet the first four winners, Charlie gets the final ticket in a last minute chance purchase. He and his suddenly recovered Grandpa head off for the life-changing tour of the factory and well, hmm, if you haven’t seen the film, then you had better get over to the Fremont and see the show to find out what happens next. Suffice it to say, much hilarity and singing ensues.
Leading off the cast is company member Aidan Martin in his 14th YST production playing Willy Wonka. He is obviously having a blast as the whimsical and mischievous Wonka, barely hiding his disdain for the bratty kids yet always maintaining his sense of wonder. Levi Srebalus is a delightful Charlie Bucket, exuding sweetness and pure joy when he gets that golden ticket. Sorsha Khitikian and Liam Walker are a lovely Mr. & Mrs. Bucket with Grace Dennis, Olympia Papadopolous, Sean Quintero-Guan as the hilarious, chocolate loving grandparents. Onnie Williams is a hoot as kindhearted Grandpa Joe. Gwenyth Daley makes the absolute most of the absolute worst and spoiled Veruca Salt. She gets lots of laughs with her high pitched demands.
Anastasia Papadopolous plays Violet Beauregard with fantastic gum chewin’ southern sass and Samuel Franco is hilarious in his big, white Texan hat as Mike Teavee. In a wildly entertaining star turn is the irresistable Harrison Tang as Augustus Gloop! The rest of the cast is wonderful as parents, a nerdy reporter, squirrels and the fabulously funny Oompa Loompas. They are Karl Quintero-Guan, Sophia Corral, Corwin Daley, Constantin Papadopolous, Claire Heyler-Erickson, Aisling DeVilla, Hannah Berk, Olivia Franco, Victoria Field, Kyla DeVilla, Zeke Bautista, Sydney Kim-Tang, Paxton Kim-Tang, and Lauren Martin.
Willy Wonka Jr. is directed by Jack J. Bennett, musically directed by Gloria Bennett, choreographed by Mirai Booth-Ong and lighting design by Sam M. Phillips. Camp Assistants Lauren Martin, Liam Walker, Aidan Martin, Levi Srebalus, and Onnie Williams are stage crew with costumes by Kelly Graham and Scenic Art by Mateo Diez.
Willy Wonka Jr. has seven performances total, four performances each weekend June 30-July 9. Get tickets online at www.youngstarstheatre.org. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena.