Theatre Mirror Reviews "Willy Wonka JR."


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Willy Wonka JR."

Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Footlight Rep's current children's show is "Willy Wonka, Jr.". This presentation contains 30 children from age 5 to 17 in the cast. Willy Wonka is a series of vignettes about Charlie Bucket, a poor little girl who longs for a chance to win a contest sponsored by Willy Wonka, a chocolate maker who is ready to retire and seeks a successor. The audience meets the five children competing and their families in the first act and they finally meet the magical Willy Wonka and his helpers, the Oompa Loompas in the second act. This is where the audience discovers who deserves the prize to live in the factory, making and eating all the chocolate you'd ever want to eat. The contestants must follow Wonka's rules or face the consequences. The moral of this story is to tell the truth and being a nice person does pay off after all. Directors Neil Jeronimo and Tricia Rodrigues,musical director Kasey Jeronimo and choreographer Brian Pereira pick the talented children who entertain you from start to finish in this evening of enjoyable family entertainment. Their high energy show wins them a thunderous standing ovation at the curtain call.

Neil and Tricia block the cast beautifully, obtaining topnotch performances as these characters while Kasey taught them the musical numbers which win thunderous applause. They come up with inventive and brilliant bits of business to keep the well known tale fresh for current day audiences. They incorporate songs from "A Chorus Line", "Grease", "Annie" and "Chicago" to the Oompa Loompa songs in the second act and these four numbers stop the show. Brian's many dances include tap, kick line, soft shoe and ballet to name a few. The show opens with a marvelous dance by Jenny Lee-Lopes to "Pure Imagination". She executes some gorgeous ballet moves during which keep you mesmerized. Leading this show is Isabella Manchester, a pretty blonde, is the little girl who plays Charlie Bucket. She is onstage almost the entire show. Isabella is adorable as this good hearted little girl who yearns to help her family. She wins over the audience with her fabulous acting talent and marvelous singing voice.  Isabella sings "Think Positive" to her mother and father to cheer them up and does a fantastic tap dance to it. This song is reminiscent of "I Don't Need Anything But You". Charlie enters the factory with her Grandpa Joe who is excellently played by Nate Carreiro. He does a great job as this elderly man and has a good rapport with Isabella. Nate and Angela Consonni as Mrs. Bucket sing a poignant song in the first act "Cheer Up Charlie" when the little girl is down-hearted. He and Isabella also do the funny flying song "I'm Flying". Charlie confesses that she and her grandpa drank the forbidden drink and Wonka explains it was a test of character and Charlie won it due to her honesty.

The other four children who have the golden tickets are very talented, too. Their characters however are insufferable brats. Hayley Senra as Veruca, from Brazil who is an unpleasant, rich spoiled British brat who wants everything she sees. She sings "I Want More" and learns the moral of being a spoiled brat when she disappears with the squirrels. (Eliana Massa plays her at alternating performances.) Sydney Rukowski as Violet, the gum-chewing loud mouth from Georgia. She sings "Chew It" and learns the moral of chewing too much gum, blowing up into a giant blueberry. Edward Plante as Augustus Gloop from Germany who eats everything in sight especially the chocolate. He sings "I Eat More" and learns the moral of eating too much. Zack Silva as Mike Teevee from California who loves watching television. He sings "I See It All on TV" and learns the moral of too much TV and technology. Their parents are wonderfully played and are as comical as their children. Margaret O'Donoghue plays Veruca's British mother who owns a nut factory, Janessa Valerio plays the long suffering mother of Violet, Morgan Salpietro plays Mrs. Gloop who likes to eat as much as her son and Ally Ellison plays the Geography teacher mother of Mike. (Shannon Patota plays Mrs. Teevee at alternating performances. They are wild and crazy in these roles, bringing much merriment to the proceedings.

Grace Boland who has a terrific voice sings "The Candy Man" and "Golden Age of Chocolate". She plays the Candy Lady who is kind to the poor Charlie. Jillian Levesque plays the lead role of Wonka which is reminiscent of the Pied Piper. She commands the stage as this character as well as narrates some of the scenes. She sings "Pure Imagination" with Grace and "There's No Knowing. Other comic roles include Emily Marshall as Cherry Sundae, the reporter who reveals the children who won the golden tickets and Peter James Genereaux as the toothpaste selling Mr. Bucket. Kudos to all the talented children in this show. A word of praise to Neil and Tricia for providing these children with theatrical experiences that not only will help them in their future endeavors but also give them a positive outlet for their creative talents and energy. They learned how to build the set and make their own costumes as well as learning how to act, sing and dance. So for a fun filled musical treat, be sure to catch "Willy Wonka, Jr." before the Candy Girl leaves town for good.

"Willy Wonka, JR." (9 - 12 January)
@ 65 Milford Road, SWANSEA MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide