Musical fantasy is excellent way to introduce children to the theater arts
Published in the July 5 – July 18, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Camille Bounds
The family musical play “Willy Wonka” opened at the Morgan Hill Playhouse June 23 with well-deserved applause from the audience.
Carol Harris directs this South Valley Civic Theatre show — the last of the 2016-2017 season— with a silky wand that brings out the best in the 40 or more kids who hit the stage on cue and sing and dance their hearts out. The performance comes together beautifully with her on-spot organization and super direction.
“It is a great family musical that includes all ages and appeals to all ages. We enjoy presenting classic stories for the whole family,” said Robin Bezanson, the show’s producer. “I’m bursting at the seams with a pride in this production. The professionalism of each actor from our very youngest to the oldest has been top notch. They have crafted their characters and made them their own. Their enthusiasm is infectious. When you present a quality set and actors who make the story come to life like they have, the product is something to be proud of.”
This “Willy Wonka” is a tribute to the level of talent both on stage and behind the scenes that we have in the South Valley, with performers coming from Gilroy, Morgan Hill and elsewhere in the region.
Maya King plays the story’s hero, Charlie Bucket. Jason Harris is the mischievous title character Willy Wonka, the eccentric owner of a most unusual confectionery manufacturing enterprise made famous in Roald Dahl’s popular children’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
The two performers have the most songs and they both carry their tunes throughout the show with feeling and earnestness. The rest of actors are well cast and skillfully deliver their moments of music and hilarity.
More than 20 songs with music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley are a part of this fast-moving musical — including the favorites “The Candy Man” and “Pure Imagination” that are noted as standards today.
Augustus Gloop is played by Josh Watts as a bratwurst-loving, over-stuffed child encouraged along by the words of his wonderfully stereotypically German mother, played by Megan Griffin. Veruca Salt, the British spoiled brat, is played by Leah Grifall, and the popular Chris Goller is her submissive father.
Sean O’Connor plays Mike Teavee, an electronics obsessed kid whose mother, played by Trish King, dotes on his over assertiveness of his needs for high-tech gadgets. Jillian Puente plays Violet Beauregarde, the Southern girl who has an obnoxious gum addiction encouraged along by her mother, played by Elizabeth K. Wagner.
The cast of kids find the five golden tickets hidden within their candy bars that get them through the gates for a hilarious tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory. All fail Wonka’s secret tests of who shall inherit his business. But Charlie’s politeness and honesty wins out in the end.
Adding to the adventure are the Oompa Loompas and nutty squirrels performed by loads of kids covering the stage. All are in bright, delightful costumes designed by Michelle Griffin, with great hair and makeup by Tiffany Goller. The stage sets are a wonderment that seems everyone had a part in the building and designing led by Robin Bezanson, Carol Harris and Jason Leong.
Adding to the effects are the super sound by Sierra McKenna and Kris Snook and lightning by Joyce Bedard.
The stage crew that moves and change scenes, dressers, music technicians and a ton of others make up this huge cast in front and back stage— you have to know — the show goes nowhere without these behind-the-scenes people.
The “Willy Wonka” set is comprised of uniquely designed pieces that are multi-functional. One piece acts as a book to switch from scene to scene. As for special effects, this show has a lot more elements than SVCT’s shows have had in the past.
“Our amazing lighting designer, Joyce Bedard, has incorporated lighting effects like strobe lights, UV black lights, laser lights and unique techniques,” Bezanson said. “In addition to that we are using scents to enhance the audience’s experience and even a shower of bubbles.”
The choreography by Jyovonne Montosa is simple, delightful and well rehearsed. Getting little children to concentrate and work together isn’t easy but they deliver great groups of numbers in unison. They are really fun to watch and the plot is fast moving and complicated, but it will keep you alert throughout the entire production.
Willy Wonka will make you smile and leave you with a warm, good feeling.
This SVCT production for children of all ages is more than worth the price of your golden ticket.
Camille Bounds is the theater, arts and travel columnist for the Morgan Hill and Gilroy Life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org