Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Wanskuck Players, a theater group at the Boys & Girls Club of Providence, presentation of "Willy Wonka" contains sixty performers of varying ages and theatrical experience. The motto of the club holds true for this play, "The positive place for kids". The mixture of children and adults entertainers make for a fun filled evening and show theater is thriving for people of all ages both on and off stage.
"Willy Wonka" is a series of vignettes about Charlie Bucket, a poor little boy who helps his family out by selling newspapers. He longs for a chance to win a contest sponsered by chocolate maker, Willy Wonka. We meet the 5 children and their families and various assorted people in Act 1. In Act 2 we finally meet the magical Willy Wonka and his helpers, the oompa loompas and find out who deserves the prize, to live in the factory, making and eating all the chocolate you could ever want.
Director Lynn Nadrowski with stage manager Donner Prime and technical director, Dennis Pouliot undertake a monumental task of making 60 people on the stage look good and they accomplish it very capably. Lynn has given the beginners and the more seasoned people a lot to do in this show. The young kids are cute and the older kids and adults show how much they have learned from her direction. Donner and Dennis keep things running smoothly backstage and out in front with the set and lighting changes. Kudos for giving children the opportunity to perform in theater at any age and giving them a positive experience,too. A word of praise to producer and the club director, Bill Beatini for letting theater enter the lives of people who wouldn't have the chance to do it anywhere else but here. Many schools should follow his example. Bravo!
The little boy, RJ Little plays Charlie and is onstage almost the whole time. RJ is adorable as the good hearted lad and he wins the audience over with his acting talent. Charlie enters the factory with his Grandpa Joe played by Dale Miller. Dale does a good job as the elderly man and has a good rapport with RJ. They sing and dance to the song "I've Got a Golden Ticket" to close Act 1. Great job.
The other children who also have golden tickets are the unpleasant spoiled brat, Veruca (Ashley Beauvais) who wants everything she sees and plays her very well, the gum chewing loudmouth Violet ( Haley Brennan) who is wonderful on stage and has a projective voice, the overeater, Augustas Gloop (Evan DaCosta) who eats everything in sight and is a natural comic and Mike Teevee (Jefferey Gore) who loves watching TV and plays another bratty kid very well. The parents who accompany them are also very good. Taylor Brennan does outstanding work as the British father of Veruca. His accent is supurb and he shines in his role. Kris Bert as Mrs. Gloop who likes to eat as much as her son, the shifty politician and car salesman father of Violet (Wilson Fermin) and Stacey Souza as the geography teacher mother of Mike are wonderful in their parts bringing merriment in their scenes.
Since it is impossible to mention 60 cast members in a review, I will mention some other performers. Willy Beatini does a great job singing "Candy Man" and playing one as well as showing good comic timing as a detective later in the show. Ralph Bruno doesn't appear until Act 2 as Willy Wonka but when this young man is on the stage, he is wonderful to watch and listen to. He interacts well with the other actors and has fun with the Oompa loompas (who sing and dance comically in their scenes) Ralph has an excellent singing voice which he shows off in the "Pure Imagination" number. Great job. Charlie's boss at the newspaper stand is played by Tony Manzo who is at ease in his part helping Charlie escape with his ticket and plays an auctioneer convincingly later in the show. Another comic part is Mr. Turkentine (Al Noviello) who shows more interest in winning the candy contest than in teaching his class. David Coppola plays several roles in the show and handles them with ease. His funniest role is the Paraguay reporter where he uses a hilarious accent. A word of praise to everyone else in this huge show including the young dancers who open it. Remember, if you have the talent for theater, don't waste it.