By Heidi Sutton
If your children have a sweet tooth and love live theater, why not head over to Smithtown and treat them to a scrumptious production of “Willy Wonka Jr.”? The Kids Performing for Kids show is currently in production at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts through June 24, and offers the perfect opportunity for young actors to hone their craft.
Directed by Christine Boehm, the play follows the original story closely, with all the wonderful music and unique characters (minus Slugworth) from the 1971 classic that we have come to love along with a few nods to the 2005 film (think nutty squirrels).
Based on the 1964 novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, the show stars Willy Wonka (Alex Mahr), the famous candy man who has not been seen or heard from since he closed his factory to the public years ago, even though Wonka sweets are still being produced. Now he reappears to stage a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his chocolate bars. Whoever finds a golden ticket will receive a free tour of the Wonka factory along with a lifetime supply of chocolate. But Wonka has an ulterior motive. He would like to retire and is looking for a child to take over his candy empire.
As each golden ticket is found, the audience is introduced to the winner — Augustus Gloop (Dylan O’Leary), Veruca Salt (Cassidy Torns), Violet Beauregarde (Erika Hinson) and Mike Teavee (Michael Puglisi) in one of the funniest scenes in the show, revealing all their little quirks, nasty habits and bad manners as their overindulging parents cringe.
When Charlie Bucket (Olivia Cox), a poor young boy from a loving family, finds the last ticket, he picks his Grandpa Joe (Logan O’Leary) to accompany him on the tour. As the afternoon progresses, each child misbehaves in the factory and is led away by the Oompa Loompas until only Charlie is left. Will he receive the keys to the factory or be punished for sampling the Fizzy Lifting Drinks?
The cast, ranging in age from 6 to 18, does an incredible job portraying the story and its overlying message to think positive, and the many numbers, especially “The Candy Man,” “Pure Imagination,” “Oompa Loompa” and “I Want It Now,” are executed beautifully. Costumes by Ronald Green III are top notch, from the green wigs on the Oompa Loompas to Willy Wonka’s top hat and coat. Designed by Mike Mucciolo, the dazzling set, complete with lollipops and candy mushrooms with “whipped cream,” are right out of Wonka’s pure imagination. Get your golden ticket today!
Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Candy and water will be sold during intermission and booster seats are available. Meet Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located on the back of the program.
The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, located at 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Willy Wonka Jr.” through June 24. Children’s theater continues with “Pinkalicious The Musical” from July 14 to Aug. 19 and “Mary Poppins” from Sept. 15 to Oct. 28. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.
All photos by Danielle Nigro