Have a dazzlingly good time at Willy Wonka Jr.
Stripes Europe January 29, 2024
Theatergoers have a chance to discover the “Golden Age of Chocolate” when they head to the Amelia Earhart Theater in Wiesbaden to see Willy Wonka, Jr directed by Jennifer Barnes & Kelly O’Donnell.
If you have seen the original movie or the award-winning Broadway and London musicals, note that this version has similarities, but was specifically designed for performance by youth theater groups. Just like the Roald Dahl book it is based on, “Willy Wonka Jr.” tells the story of a young, poverty-stricken boy named Charlie Bucket, played perfectly and with impressive dancing by Sylvia Arriaga.* Charlie longs for his family to escape poverty and find a life of comfort.
When Charlie finds out that the mysterious candy man Willy Wonka (Jonah Pinkston*) --the greatest chocolate maker of all time--is letting five children into his factory for a grand tour, Charlie is thrilled. Not only will he get to tour the factory, but he will also win a lifetime supply of chocolate! To get in, he must find a Golden Ticket. These five Golden Tickets could be anywhere in a Wonka Chocolate Bar. Immediately, the sales of Wonka Bars soar to unprecedented levels all over the world. How does Charlie stand a chance, when his family can barely scrape up enough money for their cabbage soup? Just as in the original story, Charlie’s innate kindness and the moral compass of his funny, spry Grandpa Joe, played by the impressive Camilla McGill, is even more evident when juxtaposed against the other Golden Ticket winners and their parents who have spoiled them rotten.
All four ‘bad children’ roles were done well. Britain Howell as Violet Beauregarde somehow managed to tap into the ghost of Scarlet O’Hara as a perfect, gum-chomping, spoiled Southern Belle. Judson McGill as Mike Teevee, a screen-time addicted gamer, was appropriately dismissive and mostly ignored anything not on his screen. Jack Martin* as the mostly benign but gluttonous Augustus Gloop has comic timing not usually found in an actor in the fifth grade. Cassandra Pacheo plays the most villainous character in the play - the mean spirted, self-centered Veruca Salt. For such a young performer, Pacheo has no fear in going for the gusto: she whines, she stomps, and she shrieks her demands at a high decibel level to an indifferent, and somewhat bemused Wonka.
A wrinkle not found in the film adaptations is the on-the-scene reporter Phineas Trout (London Howell*) covering the Golden Ticket story, whose breaking- the-fourth-wall sarcastic asides to the audience about these four children puts her in something of a narrator role along with Wonka. Finally, as the show’s namesake character, Pinkston delivers Wonka’s commentaries on the children with the right mix of grandiosity and brutal honesty.
“My Dear, Augustus was damaged long ago. The tragedy would be the wasted chocolate!”
— Willy Wonka
Musical highlights include Charlie’s parents, played by Abner Pinkston* and Audrey O’Donnell, in “Cheer Up Charlie”, Charlie and Grandpa Joe duetting in “Flying.” Adelyn Canard* as the kind-hearted Candy Man, and Wonka co-conspirator who ensures Charlie gets a Golden Ticket, is a highpoint as she sings about her character and leads the ensemble in the ambitious tap-dance showstopper “Candy Man”. Of course, the most iconic roles from the story are the tremendously cast, brightly-clad Oompa-Loompas. These young cast members had no problems kicking up their heels in choreography from Chresteane Howell.
Finally, the choices in set design and costumes - emphasizing bright costume colors and set pieces with Day-Glo painted accents under blacklight - were extremely well done. The entire stage floor was even painted to look like old-world cobblestones, surely a time-consuming labor of love. There were also some impressive technical elements for such an intimately sized theater…but you’ll have to see them for yourself…you’ll be dazzled!
See the show - you won’t be disappointed. While you are there, please make sure you acknowledge the parents and volunteers who make these youth productions the impressive theatrical creations they are. This loud and confident spectacle ticks so many boxes and oozes so much confidence, that it makes for a delicious night out for families. Long live the magic of the real-life Willy Wonka: Roald Dahl.
(* - denotes a debut performance at the Amelia Earhart Playhouse).
February 2, 3, and 9 at 7:30 p.m.;
February 4 at 2:00 p.m.
Adults - $10
Seniors & students 13 & up - $8
Children 12 & under - $6
Call the Theater office at 548-9812 (DSN), +49 0611-143-548-9812 (Tues-Sat, 10am – 6pm) or book online at Webtrac.
Note: this show has been submitted as an entry into the 2024 US Army IMCOM Europe Entertainment Tournament of Plays (TOPPERs).