Local talent finds golden tickets in production of Willy Wonka Jr.
Gideon Hall felt like the golden ticket winner a few weeks ago when he woke up to get ready for school.
The 11-year-old Hagerstown resident had auditioned for Authentic Community Theatre’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” His parents let him know “before school, really early” that he had been cast as his favorite character in the show.
“I wanted to be either Charlie or the grandpa. I auditioned for Charlie and I got called back for Charlie, and then, I got Charlie. I was, like, really excited,” Gideon said.
“Willy Wonka Jr.” will run Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1 at The Maryland Theatre. The musical is based on author Roald Dahl’s tale of whimsical candy manufacturer Willy Wonka, who stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his candy bars. The character Charlie, is one of the five golden-ticket winners who wins a free tour of the Wonka Factory and a lifetime supply of candy.
Gideon, a student at Western Heights Middle School, said he likes Charlie because “he is always upbeat and positive.”
The character has a modest home life. He is humble, honest, good-natured and has a sense of wonder about the world.
“He’s not really like the other golden ticket winners and I like that about him,” Gideon said. “He is poor but he doesn’t really show it. He doesn’t let it get him down. He always looks at the bright side of things.”
Nick Smith, 14, of Keedysville, portrays the mysterious Willy Wonka. Charming but a little sinister, Nick said the chocolatier is “very detached from everyone.”
Nick drew inspiration from his role mostly for actor Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the character in the 1971 film, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Johnny Depp starred in director Tim Burton’s 2005 film version of the story “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Zane Oberholzer, who directed the ACT production, guided Nick in learning to interact with the other characters in a disengaged way.
“I kind of go around speaking to myself, introducing everything but not really caring about them,” Nick said.
The Boonsboro Middle School student said the show is an exploration of character and “how to be a good person.” The script features decidedly good and bad characters who reap consequences accordingly.
“There is one spoiled kid, another kid who eats a lot,” Nick said. “Charlie is the really good kid who didn’t grow up in a good home but he thinks positive.”
Kaylie Brown, 13, of Williamsport, plays Mrs. Gloop, the mother of Augusta Gloop, a child with gluttonous eating habits. Mrs. Gloop believes that her child’s overeating is healthy and encourages her gorging on chocolate.
Kaylie, who starred as Jasmine in ACT’s production of Aladdin Jr., said Mrs. Gloop wants Augusta to “eat as much as she can.” Eventually, Augusta falls into liquid chocolate and meets her demise.
“The missus is devastated that her poor little piggly wiggly is dead,” Kaylie said. “There is some dark humor. Willy Wonka doesn’t really care about the kids very much. He kind of just wants to show everyone his favorite place in the world and then just on to the next room.”
Mrs. Gloop is a comedic character of German descent, she said.
“Being Mrs. Gloop is one of those dream roles. I saw ‘Willy Wonka’ on Broadway and she stood out so much to me because she is so funny,” Kaylie said. “I get to speak a little bit of German. It’s fun pronouncing words wrong and hearing how they are really supposed to be. It’s really funny.”
Kaylie said that as director of the cast of roughly 35, Oberholzer was “amazing.”
“He pushed us to really develop our characters and he put these little pieces in that made the show wonderful,” she said.
Lawren Palmer provided musical direction and Kristen Davis choreographed.
Gideon said everyone who goes to see the show will be able to find something to like.
“Charlie will cheer them up because he has such a positive attitude,” he said. “They are going to laugh. A lot of scenes are really funny. The songs are really good. They are going to have a good time watching it.”
Top photo: Nick Smith stars as Willy Wonka in Authentic Community Theatre’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” (Submitted photo)