Adelaide Youth Theatre. 24 Apr 2021
Wow. Just wow. From the moment the orchestra - guided by Music Directors Serena Cann and Ben Francis - strikes up the overture and Willie Wonka (Oscar Bridges) struts on to the stage twirling his cane, you know you’re in for a treat. And what a treat it is.
Roald Dahl’s much loved book is brought to life on the stage by a remarkable cast of young (and very young) actors, singers and dancers in a production that is world class. Before you can grasp the enormity of this production, a full chorus high kicks its way onto stage in full Broadway look and style. And so it continues through the show, with the ensemble delighting the audience at every turn.
A couple of tech hiccups early with missed lighting cues and a bit of muddy sound are quickly corrected, and the tech crew are off and running. Lighting Designer Jamie Rayner has nuanced this well, and Craig Williams on Lighting and Special Effects nails it with some spectacular digital back screen projections. The venue is more an auditorium than a theatre; it’s a bit cavernous for the production but in these COVID days it certainly fit the bill in terms of capacity and staggered seating. Well done.
Young Charlie Bucket lives in poverty with his parents and grandparents. Grandpa Joe tells him stories of the great days of the now closed Wonka Chocolate Factory. When Wonka announces it is re-opening with a competition which invites five lucky children on a tour, Charlie lucks out, finding enough money to buy a Wonka Bar and claiming one of the golden tickets. The other children are dispensed with one by one, with the Oompah Loompahs, Wonka’s assistants, singing about their appalling behaviour. Good, kind Charlie is the last kid standing, and inherits the factory from Wonka.
There are two casts for this show; this night the ‘Gum’ (as opposed to the ‘Candy’) cast were performing, but judging by the calibre of artist performing this night, either would be worth seeing.
Oscar Bridges is a perfectly dry witted Willie Wonka, singing and dancing his way through the production with consummate ease, dropping in the odd bon mot that thankfully went over the little one’s heads. Harrison Thomas is just delightful as the young Charlie and the two play off each other most entertainingly.
The stage is kept relatively clear (to fit in the huge all singing, all dancing ensemble!), with Charlie’s home (hovel) depicted by a loft bed with kitchen beneath, firmly set to one side of the stage. The grandparents were all set atop the bed, with some very cute flatulence humour. Grandpa Joe (Benjamin Gray) manages to shake off his age remarkably quickly, and joins in on the general hoe down with great gusto.
The gold ticket children push the caricature to the edge; the glutton Augustus (Nicholas Latella), ridiculously spoiled and Insta influencer Veruca Salt (Zahli Linke), chewing gum fiend Violet (Zoe Kerr) and mobile phone addict Mike Teavee (Shae Olsson Jones) and their parents do not disappoint, delighting the audience with their appalling behaviour.
The absolute highlights are the ensemble chorus, brilliantly costumed and choreographed by Jayden Prelc (assisted by Tayla McDougall)and just when you think it can’t get better, out come the Oompah Loompahs – just brilliant!
At two and a half hours plus on a Saturday night, it might have been touch and go for the five year old’s attention span. No problem; he was riveted to the stage from the get go (apologies to those around us, he knows the story well and his commentary was less than hushed!).
Congrats to Adelaide Youth Theatre on this very professional and entertaining production.
Where: Influencers Theatre