In “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” cabbage soup was the regular meal staple for the poor and struggling Bucket family. By chance, young Charlie Bucket found one of five golden tickets that promised a visit to Willy Wonka’s secretive chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Perhaps this opportunity might lead to something bigger for the Bucket family. Based on Dahl’s children’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the musical offered a heartwarming message about the power of familial love and positive thinking. Roberta Jones Junior Theatre (RJJT) held a dress rehearsal for this production on Oct. 27.
“We’ve got 65 cast members in this musical; they’re very talented and they’ve been working on this since the end of August,” says Kevin Cornelius, recreation supervisor for the Santa Clara City Parks and Recreation Department.
The plum role of Willy Wonka went to Nicky Caldwell, 14, who demonstrated a confident stage presence as soon as he appeared while singing the dreamy “Pure Imagination.”
“My inspiration for this Willy Wonka character came from the Gene Wilder movie,” says Caldwell, referencing movies based on the book. “Gene Wilder was the nice Willy Wonka and Johnny Depp was the colder one. I prefer Gene Wilder’s character. I feel like Willy Wonka knows what’s going on in all the kids’ minds because he’s a childlike character himself. He chooses the rooms in the factory to test them and a child always falls into a trap.”
Jack Lingscheit, 11, as Charlie Bucket, conveyed a young child’s fascination with a magical chocolate factory. He reflected on the musical’s message about perseverance.
“I think the story teaches you that if something doesn’t happen, that when you think what you’re going to dream about is never going to happen, that you should still not give up on your dream,” Lingscheit says.
Carley La Placa, 16, played Mrs. Beauregard, who overindulged her gum-addicted daughter Violet. Violet tragically transformed into a giant blueberry when she ignored Willy Wonka’s warning about gum chewing in his factory. Reflecting on her role, La Placa offered an insight about parenting.
“I think it was important to show the relationships the parents have with their children, and how parents influence how their children act,” says La Placa. “I think Mrs. Beauregard’s constant praise of Violet made Violet conceited and that’s why she thought she knew more than Willy Wonka.”
Hannah Brady was a cast member in a number of RJJT productions. Recently, Brady graduated from Loyola Marymount University. Back home in Santa Clara, Brady directed this production.
“I was actually in a production of ‘Willy Wonka’ with RJJT years ago so it’s fun to go back and relive this in a different way,” Brady says. “When I was with RJJT, I liked it when I was asked by the director what my opinion was. Now I’ll ask cast members how they think their character would act.”
“Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka” is showing from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6 at the Mary Louise Mello Auditorium in the Community Recreation Center at 969 Kiely Blvd. Visit www.RJJT.org for information about ticket availability and future productions.