It’s not quite the Willie Wonka production many grew up with, but "Will A. Wonkie and the College Tour (chocolate not included)" is close enough to the original to take one back to the 1970s Gene Wilder-based movie, yet updated enough with college jocks, computer game addicts and selfie sticks to make it appeal to a modern audience.
The effort hits the stage at 7 p.m. this Friday and Saturday at Bement High School. Tickets, discounted for students, will be available at the door.
Be assured this is not a musical, as highlighted by an exasperated narrator played by Dylan Upton, who interrupts any time cast members attempt to break into song. But the story stays true to its roots, with a dirt poor Charlie (played by Hailey Gadbury) who wants a special ticket to get her into the town’s very private – and very bizarre – university for a tour. There she and other potential students meet the college’s oddball dean, Will A. Wonkie, played by John Watzlawick.
Accompanying her on the tour of the non-traditional campus is Grandma Jo, played by junior Alexis Jones, who said she was familiar with the more recent "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" movie, which was based on the 1964 book by Roald Dahl.
"When I was younger I watched the Johnny Depp version of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and liked it, and I thought this play would be more like the movie," said Jones. "Even though it isn’t, it’s still fun. My favorite part of the play is when Violet gets taken."
Like both movies, misbehaving youth are dealt with in rather unique ways that are updated for the 2000s in the BHS production. That includes fitness freak Augustus Brawn, who snatches some cookies and pays for it with a peanut allergy reaction.
Annie Galindo and Alyson Mott are co-directing "Will A. Wonkie," and Galindo said her 17 student actors are relishing their comedic roles.
"The music program performed high school musicals and there have also been dramas, so we thought it was time for a comedy," said Galindo.
She also likes some of the production’s updates.
"I love the pop reference that our main character uses to call in the Uni Loonies characters," she added, pointing to Will A. Wonkie’s version of the Oompa Loompas. "I am curious as to how many people will recognize what TV show the reference is from."
Galindo performed in high school theatre, and this is her first time directing a high school production. However, she has been using her speech and improv coaching skills to help in her directorial debut.
The predominantly high school cast is being supplemented by a pair of eighth grade students.
"People will love this play and it will make them laugh. Our students have such great talent and their development of the characters is all their own," added Galindo.
Additional information about the play, or about advertising in the playbill, is available by emailing Galindo at email@example.com.
Those involved in the play include:
Directors – Alyson Mott and Annie Galindo
Stage Manager - Madison Price
Stage Crew – Chloe Greenarch, Jaylee Tschida, Anna Quick
Cast – John Watzlawick, Alexis Jones, Hailey Gadbury, Carter Davenport, Hailee Schimansky, Ellie Shonkwiler, Logan Munster, Tigerlily Whidden, Addie Fritz, Tyler Upton, Madison Wilkins, Braden Fogerson, Dylan Upton, Eli Roppel, Tarryn Thomas, Zoe Martin and Trinity Stroisch.