Kids, Candy, Quirkiness Bring Musical Magic To ‘Willy Wonka’ - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Kids, Candy, Quirkiness Bring Musical Magic To ‘Willy Wonka’

January 18th, 2019 SanTan Sun News
Kids, Candy, Quirkiness Bring Musical Magic To ‘Willy Wonka’

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

Many Chandler children are eager to take audiences on a journey of pure imagination as they perform the sweet, quirky tale of candy man Willy Wonka as he seeks a successor to his chocolate factory.

Limelight Performing Arts, based in Gilbert, is hoping that audiences will eat up its production of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” through Jan. 20 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. in Mesa.

Young actors populate the cast of 35, portraying colorful characters in the musical based on Dahl’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The scrumdiddlyumptious singing, dancing and acting confection is a blend of the original movie, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” released in 1971, and the 2005 film, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” as well as Dahl’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

The musical, book and movies are about eccentric Wonka, a candy manufacturer who places five golden tickets in candy bars he sells. Those who find them get a free tour of his factory and a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the children who win the tickets demonstrate bad behavior. The fifth, Charlie Bucket, is likeable and brings his friendly grandfather along on the tour.

The factory is a magical, bizarre place with a chocolate river, an experimental chewing gum that tastes like a three-course meal and a psychedelic boat ride. Oompa-Loompas, small people with orange skin and green hair, work in the factory and sing songs about the vices of four of the children, who suffer negative, strange consequences for their behavior.

One of them, Violet Beauregarde, who constantly chews gum, chews the experimental version made at the factory despite Wonka’s urging her not to. She blows up into a blueberry. Another child, gluttonous Augustus Gloop, who despite Wonka’s wishes drinks chocolate from a waterfall, falls into a lake of melted chocolate and is sucked into a chocolate extraction pipe.

Children and adults will enjoy feasting on the colorful, classic musical that many watched in the two movies, according to Limelight director Jamie Bauer-Spano.

“I think it’s just really fun and imaginative,” Bauer-Spano said. “It’s a familiar story that everyone knows. It’s family-friendly. It’s been really fun bringing in the kids’ imagination.”

The Limelight musical will feature fun, sugar-coated touches, including actors portraying candy and chocolate. Actors will ride bicycles in one scene to simulate the act of flying.

“Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka” gives the budding actors room to improvise and have a blast, Bauer-Spano said. Kids play children and older youths play adult parents. Some actors play more than one role, including a character and part of the ensemble, so they are always busy wearing different hats in the show.

Owen Aspinall, 10, of Mesa, a fifth-grader at Knox Gifted Academy in Chandler, who has performed in several shows, plays Charlie, who comes from a very poor family. Charlie admits to Wonka that he did something he was not supposed to do in the factory and Wonka rewards him for coming clean.

“I like the moral of the story, telling the truth,” Aspinall said. “I’ve gotten a lot of young boy parts, so it fits me perfectly. It’s funny, and I think our choreographer and director have made some pretty interesting choices about the choreography and the set and the blocking.”

He is sweet on acting.

“I’ve just been doing this for a long time so it’s just comfortable for me,” Aspinall said.

Abby Springer, 12, of Mesa, an experienced actress, is doing something she has done before: playing a boy. The seventh-grader at Stapley Junior High will portray Mike Teavee, who constantly watches TV and wins a trip to the factory.

“I’m always playing boys,” Springer said. “I did in ‘Tarzan,’ ‘Elf’ and ‘The Lion King.’ It’s kinda easy.”

Of her television-obsessed character, Springer said “he’s funny” and “kind of like cocky, too.”

She has watched both movie versions of the Willy Wonka story and liked the original one best.

“It’s really funny and it kind of opens your mind, opening your mind to new things,” Springer said. “You need to be gracious and grateful for what you have.”

Abby’s sister, Savannah Springer, 9, a fourth-grader at Bush Elementary, is the understudy for Veruca Salt, a spoiled girl who got a golden ticket and is used to getting everything she wants from her father. Savannah also plays the head Oompa Loompa and a Candy Kid.

“I think that it’s really fun and really nice for kids to be able to see because it goes into imagination,” Savannah said. “There’s a lot of different ways you can do it. There’s lots of different perspectives of characters.”

Savannah said that she and the other actors provide a lot of humor and “worked really hard on our harmonies” in the show.

Hailey Laidig, 12, of Mesa, a sixth-grader at Hale Elementary, is in the musical with her sister, Caitlin, 14, a freshman at Heritage Academy. Hailey plays non-stop-gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde and Caitlin plays her mother, Mrs. Beauregarde.

“I love just like all the little parts we get to do,” Hailey said. “I’m also in the ensemble. All the choreography is always so much fun to do. You wanna keep doing the dance. Everybody is so kind to each other.”

Elliot Burns, 13, of Chandler, likes the dancing in the Limelight production. An eighth-grader at Arizona College Prep-Erie, she plays Mrs. Bucket, Charlie’s mother, in the musical.

“I think it’s a really fun musical with lots of fun music,” Burns said. “I have never played a mom before, but I have played a more feminine, maternal character. I think it has a really good plot and it makes sense. It goes along really well and it’s easy to follow.”

Zoey Hart, 12, of Chandler, a seventh-grader at Santan Junior High, also plays a mother, Mrs. Gloop, the mother of Augustus Gloop.

“It’s kinda weird because I’m not very old, but it’s fun,” Hart said. “I like that it’s just really creative. It’s really imaginative and it’s fun to do. I like that you can express yourself and it’s super fun to do.”

Some of the children in the musical are playing the parts of much older people – grandparents.

McKenna Henry, 11, of Mesa, who is home schooled, plays Grandma Josephine, one of Charlie’s grandparents.

“It’s actually really cool,” Henry said. “It’s really fun to act and dance, too. I have a lot of friends here. They’re all really friendly.”

She said the actors who play the grandparents do “more acting” as they are in bed for much of the musical. It’s her ninth year performing at Limelight, and she performed as an Oompa Loompa in a previous production of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka” at Limelight when she was 4.

“I think it’s very interesting,” Henry said. “There’s so many different versions of it. I think the audience will think some parts are funny. The more serious parts they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, it’s cool.’”

She said the song, “Pure Imagination,” which Wonka sings, brings back fond memories as she used to listen to it to help her fall asleep.

Natalie Cline, 13, of Chandler, a seventh-grader at Santan Junior High, plays a character much older than herself. She is taking on the role of Grandma Georgina, the mother of Mrs. Bucket.

“It’s really fun, but it’s kind of hard to figure out the voice and actions,” Cline said.

She acknowledged that Grandma Georgina’s generation is “very different to our generation.”

“I think the story is very creative,” Cline said. “It’s very random. It’s this whole candy world. I think it’s a happy ending.”

Waylon Gray, 11, of Mesa, a fifth-grader at Las Sendas Elementary, said some of the musical is “lighthearted,” but in other parts it is “dark.” He plays Augustus Gloop, a child who gets a golden ticket to visit the factory but has a problem with overeating.

“He never gets told ‘no’ when it comes to hunger,” Gray said. “I think he’s a good kid, but his mother never told him ‘no.’ I think that there is such a talented cast in this show. We all kind of clicked and we all became friends.”

Kaylee Forth, 9, of Chandler, a fourth-grader at Haley Elementary, performs in the ensemble and as an Oompa Loompa.

“It kind of just feels like an adventure,” Forth said. “The Oompa Loompas teach the bratty kids a lesson. When I grow up, I wanna be a Broadway actress.”

Emma England of Gilbert, owner of Studio 3 Performing Arts and artistic director of Limelight Performing Arts, is the choreographer and designer.

Studio 3, 511 W. Guadalupe Road in Gilbert, gives lessons in acting, singing, dance, musical theater and musical instruments.

Limelight, a nonprofit youth theater, conducts rehearsals at Studio 3, but all youths are encouraged to audition and participate in Limelight productions.

“My favorite thing about this show is it features kids,” England said. “It’s something everyone can relate to. It’s very fun. For me artistically, it gives me a lot of different ways I can play. I think it’s quirky. It’s definitely fun, all-ages appropriate.”

For tickets and information on “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka” at Mesa Arts Center, visit