Thomas Jefferson Musical is Scrumdiddlyumptious!
A theater review of Thomas Jefferson Middle School's production of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," which ran March 8 and 9.
It’s hard to follow last year’s extraordinary Thomas Jefferson Middle School production of “Annie” with hilarious performances by Trevor Braun and Bridget Maresca. But this year’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was good enough to be called “great."
Much is due to the amazing creative team of director Linda Roth, choreographer Lauren Salaterski and producer Cheryl Correia, who were joined this year by musical director Andrew Brummer. The fact that this team could meld together 46 young performers into such a funny, entertaining and uplifting show is amazing. The show was delicious, good to look at and a display of pure imagination.
It is a timeless story by Roald Dahl of the world-famous candy man Willy Wonka and his quest to find an heir, featuring the songs from one of the best known children’s films of all time, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which starred Gene Wilder and later Johnny Depp.
With a memorable score by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the story follows enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka as he stages a contest by hiding five golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka's rules in the factory — or suffer the consequences.
Some of the most fun of the show was watching each obnoxious child get their comeuppance:
The best one was when Violet Beaurgarde, played remarkably by Nicki Kissil, eats a top secret gum and inflates into a giant blueberry. How they did this is beyond me, as Nicki’s dress got bigger and bigger until she was a giant blue balloon. Her song, “Chew It” was one of the best song numbers in the show.
Augustus Gloop, played well by Richard Bohajian, exercises gluttony as he devours as much chocolate as possible until he falls into a flowing river of fudge.
Veruca Salt, played humorously by Haley Goerg, is the ultimate spoiled brat, and her greed becomes her undoing when she slides down the “Bad Nut Chute.”
Mike Teevee, played convincingly by Lawrence Frolov, is fixated with television, leading him to shrink himself just so he can be on TV.
After each child experiences a harsh life lesson, the Oompa Loompas enter the stage and sing their wonderfully self-righteous songs. Very funny performances were delivered by Dan Akim, Eden Hirsch, Sabrina Leibowitz, Kim Schor, Jasmine Takach, Odette Castillo, Nassim Katir, Dana Ruzinov, Sydney Schuldt and Brianna Usher.
The first half of the show is about Charlie Bucket (played perfectly by Rachel Connell), his poverty stricken family and his relationship to Grandpa Joe in a fine performance by Robert Malzberg. Other good acting turns were by Samantha Fife, Romi Nativ, Hope Dimantopoulos, Erin Murray, Joe Breuer, Rebecca Aversa, Erika Murray, Rebecca Del Rio, Victoria Merrill, Danielle Rinaldo and Jon Rivkin.
But the star of the show, no doubt, giving Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp a run for their money, was Willy Wonka himself, played wonderfully by female Jillian Coleman who brought scrumdiddlyumptious (means really delicious) delight to the role and was the cause of much of the standing ovation by the packed audience at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Great work everyone!