"Willy Wonka" is a delightful treat for midwinter. The Mouse River Players, with a cast of 39 actors ranging from 8 years old to grandparents, runs tonight through Sunday, in the Arlene Theater, the Mouse River Players playhouse.
The play, based on Roald Dahl's 1964 novel, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," has become a children's classic. The book, a 1971 film adaptation starring Gene Wilder and a 2005 film version with Johnny Depp, have some changes in story line, director Holly Eidsness said, but each offers the same moral lesson about honesty along with sweet scenes.
"We wanted a wonderful story with music, calling for a multi-age cast, that would show off our many talented young actors," she said. "The story is told in many brief scenes, with an intermission. The first half shows how the children get their golden tickets and the second scenes take a tour through the chocolate factory."
The plot revolves around aging, eccentric chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka, played by Alex Dhuyvetter, and his decision to pass on ownership of his beloved candy factory.
He wants a worthy young owner, so he tests them. Five children are to get special candy bars. Charlie Bucket, played by Mayzie Potton, is too poor to buy a bar. Charlie lives with her parents, played by Breanna Benson and Mason Eisenzimmer, and grandparents: Nancy Pearson as Grandma Josephine and David Bradley as Grandpa Joe, Karen Anderson as Grandma Georgina and David Iverson as Grandpa George.
"The Candy Man, played by Tim Wollenzien, is instrumental in helping Charlie get the coin that buys his golden bar," Eidsness said.
The other four children are rich youngsters whose parents coddle them: Phineous Trout played by Anthony Anderson, Augustus Gloop performed by Easton Johnson, Mrs. Gloop played by Sarah Thom, Veruca Salt played by Katie Denney, Mr. Salt, played by Alex Schoenberg-Carton; Violet Beauregarde, portrayed by Monica Anderson; Mrs. Beauregarde, played by Kelly Thom; Mike Teavee, played by Alec Rico and Ms. Teavee, portrayed by Heidy Gil.
The Oompa Loompas, rescued from a distant planet, work as candy cooks. They include Brenna Heupel, Susie Graner, Avery Way, LeAnna Keupel, Alicia Gordon, Thomas Burke, Breanna Benson, Maddie Thompson, Margaret Wollenzien, Arianna Hackett, Nancy Scofield and Mason Eisenzimmer.
Eidsness said since "Willy Wonka" is set in contemporary times, much of the costuming was drawn from the actors' personal wardrobes, but there are extravagant exceptions like the Candy Man and Willy Wonka himself.
Virginia Dohms, musical director, has good music to work with, the director said, including songs like "Imagination" and "Candy Man." Lyrics and music for "Willy Wonka" were done by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. It was adapted for the stage by Bricusse and Tim McDonald. Sonja Polinsky designed thewhimsical set, with choreography by Paula Simonson.