Entertainment Fantastic stage set plays a crucial role in SCVT’s ‘Willy Wonka’ musical
Family-friendly play performances begin June 23
Published in the June 21 – July 4, 2017 of Morgan Hill Life
By Marty Cheek
Maya King got herself stuck in a corner three times this month. Rolling violet-colored paint for the upcoming South Valley Civic Theatre show “Willy Wonka,” the girl became so engaged in the set-building that she forgot to leave herself an exit path where she didn’t have to step on a wet stage floor.
“I’ve learned not to paint myself into a corner,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve done that a few times. I really like painting the floor.”
She showed her sneakers. The spots of violet paint on the bottom serve as a lesson to choose her footwear more carefully next time she works on the set. A St. Mary School student going into seventh grade this fall, King plays the role of “Charlie Bucket” in the beloved classic story about five children who take a tour of a chocolate factory owned by a mischievous man.
“I play Charlie as sort of as a depressed, poor person, but at the same time he’s positive,” she said.
The stage set the SVCT volunteers are building plays an important role in telling the story, and King enjoys helping out with its construction.
“I like knowing that I contributed,” she said. “I also like coming here on the weekends because usually I don’t have anything to do. It’s cool to be at the theater. It’s fun painting.”
The set has several pieces that are favorites for King. The gumball machine that produces the sweets that turns Violet Beauregarde, a gum-chewing American girl, into a giant blueberry is one of them. And the colorfully designed Candy Man Cart where Charlie purchases the chocolate bar with a winning golden ticket to get him entry into the factory is another set piece that strikes her fancy.
The spectacle of the set — along with colorful lighting and theatrical effects — makes it a good show for families. The story’s message of perseverance and treating other people nicely is also inspiring, King said.
“It sort of shows kids to always think on the bright side and not be depressed because of how you are in life,” she said. “It’s not boring at all because it’s a very fast-paced show.”
Jason Leong worked with producer Robin Bezanson and Carol Harris in creating the ingenious “Willy Wonka” set.
“This has been an evolving design, as these things usually are, and that’s really cool because you can always get the best of what’s possible,” he said.
Giving a tour of the set, he showed off various components still being built. A canvas pulled over a frame will serve as boat for the children and their parents to be taken by Wonka on a wild ride down a chocolate river. A set piece being painted by Harris will serve as the backdrop for the various news interviews the five golden ticket-winning children give in the musical play.
“With each interview, you flip the stage and it’s another backdrop, as if they have moved to the next location,” he said. “It makes it easy for us to change scenes and not have to move a lot of things at once. It’s an efficient way to move the story along.”
Jason Harris plays the title role of Willy Wonka. The look of the set helps create the fairy tale-like world of the story, he said. There’s a contrast between the bleakness of Bucket’s shack with the color and motion of Willy Wonka factory. He sees the play as a morality tale with a comic twist, with Willy Wonka serving as a “puppet-master” manipulating the families who win the tour of his chocolate factory.
“Willy Wonka is not really a paragon of morality. It’s obviously a set-up, which is a bit persevere in itself. He’s invited five children to come to his factory. He knows from the start he’s going to eliminate four of them because they’re brats,” he said. “So why does he do it? Why does he go to all this trouble to victimize all the children? He’s sadistic.”
As producer, Bezanson encourages families to enjoy the play, especially if they want to introduce their children to the imaginative world of theater.
“It’s a very colorful and exciting show for kids. It’ll keep parents laughing because there are a lot of jokes that are funny for adults more so than children,” she said. “The fast pace of it will make it a very enjoyable show. And it has a good message. It’s a message of do right and be right and you’ll get rewards in the end. And Charlie gets a big reward at the end for being good and being honest.”