PYT’s Willy Wonka lets the imagination soar

By Ande Jacobson

Although the show has already opened and continues only through the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2018, this isn’t a review. A review wouldn’t be proper given this reviewer is leading the orchestra for PYT’s current production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. This is instead a bit of an introduction, and a notification to not miss a holiday lead-in that will whet the appetite and get audiences into a festive mood in time for Thanksgiving. And of course there is lots of chocolate on stage (in the pit, backstage…).

The story started out as a beloved children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, written by British author Roald Dahl in 1964. Children of the 1960’s and 1970’s will likely remember it fondly, with its tale of a magical factory making the most mind-boggling treats imaginable. It is said that Dahl’s personal experience with chocolate companies as a boy inspired the story. In his native England, Cadbury used panels of schoolchildren to test their new creations. In Dahl’s novel, his alter ego, Charlie Bucket, along with four other lucky children including Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee, find the magical golden tickets that give them access to tour Wonka’s factory. Charlie’s Grandpa Joe used to work at that factory until it closed its doors years before. Along the way, before Charlie finds his ticket, Grandpa Joe tells Charlie the most amazing stories from his time there.

In 1971, Dahl’s story reached the big screen in a whimsical film entitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder as the mysterious and reclusive Willy Wonka. The movie was later adapted for the stage, first in 2004. This original stage production contains elements from both the novel and the film. With permission from the Dahl estate, Tim McDonald and Leslie Bricusse wrote the script. Bricusse also started with the music and lyrics that he and longtime musical collaborator, Anthony Newley, wrote for the film and added some new songs for the stage presentation. Newley was not involved in the stage adaptation as he had died before work began.

There have been later film and stage adaptations entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but PYT’s production is the original Willy Wonka stage version.

Director/choreographer Meg Fischer-Venuti and vocal director Holly Smolik have shaped two very large and enthusiastic casts (actors are ages 8-18) to bring their vision to life with an energy that is contagious. To enhance the visuals, Andrew Breithaupt’s sets, Leonardo Hidalgo’s lighting design, and Char DeRoin’s costumes all combine to titillate the imagination.

The music in this show is also beautiful and very well-orchestrated. The score has most of the music from the original movie, plus some additional charts that were expanded for the stage. Memorable hits include Pure Imagination, several Oompa Loompa songs that get inside your head, Think Positive, and I’ve Got a Golden Ticket. A personal favorite is also I See It All On TV which is kind of an eerie tango.

As previously mentioned, there will be no A Good Reed Review review of this one as I will be on the podium leading the very talented community orchestra. The musicians include: woodwinds: Doreen Oroshnik, Joel Greene, Rebecca Ritger, Kathy Switky, Bev Hansberry, Jordan Selburn; strings: Jaime Yuen, Ethan Dea, Rob Gloster, Jonathan Erman, Michael Firefly Perry; brass: Susan Schadeck-Chase, Ricky Martinez, Ricky Hall, Jim Deloach, Joe Kelly, Jason Loveman; keyboards: Del Quan, Doug Forsyth; and percussion: Carlos Velascos. Not all musicians will be playing every performance.

This is an imaginative, “feel good” show with a great message, and of course lots of chocolate. Get your tickets now before they are all gone.

What: Roald Dahl’s Willly Wonka

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA.

When: 10-18 November 2018, see: Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka at PYT for more information.


Additional references:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (book)
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka (Leslie Bricusse Songbook)


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