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Book by Leslie Bricusse and Tim McDonald
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly
Directed by John Cramer
August 5 to 14, 2011
Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography
Volunteer of the Production
By Selena Milewski
Posted: August 11, 2011
Waukesha Civic Theatre's Willy Wonka is a charming musical retelling of the beloved children's story with which so many of us grew up. Incorporating songs from both film adaptations and much dialogue directly from the book, the production transports its audience straight into the "world of pure imagination."
Wonka's opening-night audience received the production with delight over drinks and delicious thematic sweets. The family-friendly show charmed viewers of all ages, with every number prompting enthusiastic cheers and applause. Particularly memorable are the perfectly costumed Oompa-Loompa line dances, admonishing us against childhood transgressions such as selfishness and gluttony. Each of these numbers had the audience in stitches.
The production, which runs until Aug. 14, is visually impressive, with numerous and detailed set pieces and attractive period costumes. Charlie's house is a single-room affair with leaning walls and a single large bed that all four grandparents share, to hilarious effect. Wonka's factory, on the other hand, effectively creates the illusion of vastness with a series of clever sets illustrating every room that the five lucky golden ticket recipients visit on their tour with the "Candy Man." In an especially amusing scene, Charlie and Grandpa Joe are "levitated" in a profusion of bubbles, under the influence of Fizzy Lifting Drink. At another time, Violet Beauregarde is transformed into a giant blueberry through the magic of an ingeniously rigged inflatable dress.
Wonka's own costume and appearance could convince us that he is Gene Wilder's twin, and Paul Burkard's performance seals the deal. Flippant, eccentric and even a tad maniacal, Burkard's Wonka ties the show together. Jacob Badovski, as Charlie, is a sweet, energetic protagonist, and Rich Labinski's Grandpa Joe provides all the common sense, optimism and love the show could ever need to bring Roald Dahl's enchanting story to life.
By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
Aug. 9, 2011
It is one thing to create the outlandish characters in "Willy Wonka." It is quite another to create the magical world inhabited by the candy maker.
Waukesha Civic Theatre has managed to be sweetly successful on both counts in its latest production, Roald Dahl's "Willy Wonka."
WCT has tapped the considerable talents of the show's director and choreographer, John Cramer, WCT's managing artistic director, as well as his children, Jude, who plays Mike Teavee, and Elena, who plays Veruca Salt.
But the show gets solid performances throughout, starting with Jacob Badovski as Charlie Bucket, the youngster from a poor family which includes his four bedridden grandparents (Rich Labinski, Lee Piekarski, Marcia Skarie and Jim Volden) and his mother and father (Amy Barootian and Mark Cage). The whole family is hoping the sweet, optimistic Charlie will find a golden ticket in his Wonka chocolate bar that will win him a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate. The show's off-kilter world starts in the Bucket home, which features a lopsided fireplace and kitchen sink and gaping holes in the plaster.
The first half sets the stage for the entrance into Wonka's world in the second half by introducing the audience to the winners of the golden tickets who will be touring the Wonka factory. Ryan Albrechtson as Augustus Gloop, whose insatiable appetite later becomes his undoing, is hilariously paired with Tammy Vrba as his mother. Albrechtson is fast becoming a WCT favorite and puts in another fine, over-the-top performance as Augustus. Though often having small roles, Vrba always finds ways to make her parts memorable.
As Mike Teavee, the youngster whose world revolves around TV shoot-'em-ups, Jude Cramer is bratty and boisterous. Margaret Teshner as his mother is wonderfully expressive, facially and using body language.
Erin Magoon as Violet Beauregarde takes her gum-chewing obsession to new heights much to the delight of her parents (Kurt Magoon and Alyssa Hiebert).
But those three monster children don't come close to the hideously spoiled child that is Veruca Salt. Elena Cramer, complete with convincing British accent, hits new levels of ranting and raving, yelling and screaming, to get her way. When she says, "I want it now!" half the audience jumps to her command.
In the end, Charlie gets his golden ticket, too, and joins the other four at Wonka's candy factory to open Act II.
Paul Burkard, who even looks like Gene Wilder (his counterpart in the original movie), reveals Wonka's eccentric, ditsy character. He trips into a perfectly executed somersault, landing deftly on his feet as he leads his golden ticket winners and their chaperones through a door and into his candy-making kingdom as the lights dim.
There is an audible gasp as the lights return and illuminate Wonka's fantasy world. We meet the marvelous Oompa-Loompas, who look great with their green hair and matching white and brown outfits, not to mention their matching sizes. Somehow WCT was able to find 10 talented youngsters virtually all the same size!
It is just one of the many ways WCT captures the magic in the show. They do it with many fun visuals - like Mr. Turkentine's classroom experiment, wherein Kenneth Penzkover plays the teacher to whining perfection; with the eerie Pink Candy Boat trip through the darkened factory; with Charlie and his Grandpa Joe "levitating" toward the fan after they consume a fizzy drink.
But the wonderful sets and props would be icing without the cake were it not for Burkard's Wonka. Burkard has had many roles with WCT but this one suits him especially well. He conveys a sinister detachment throughout, but softens up beautifully in the final scene with Charlie and Grandpa Joe.
As Grandpa Joe, Lapinski is visually appealing in his scenes, especially when Charlie gets him out of bed after many years and he stumbles about like a newborn fawn.
This show has so many ways to delight adults and youngsters in the audience - one even shouted "No, don't!" to Charlie's Grandpa as he was about to take a sip of a drink during last Saturday's matinee performance.
The show is musically a lightweight, but the tunes are catchy and generally delivered well. Badovski and Cage team up for a touching "Think Positive," while Elena Cramer belts out "I Want It Now" with pure conviction. Burkard is a little shaky on the high notes in "Pure Imagination," but makes up for it with his whimsy.
The whole whimsical air of the show created by the performers, the sets, the costumes and the lighting transports the audience to another world - at least for 120 minutes.
Alex was always in the right place at the right time with a helping hand, a positive attitude, and a cheerful outlook. In addition to his multiple roles on stage, he also assisted in moving large set pieces during many of the scene changes. One crew member said that he "was very eager to help wherever he was needed." A cast mate said "Alex is filled with enthusiasm for everything that he does."