The North Carolina Children’s Theatre will deliver sweet sensations when it stages “Willy Wonka Jr.” on Friday and Saturday at the Carolina Civic Center.
The troupe’s 70 performers will sing and tap-dance through 23 songs that are framed around Ronald Dahl’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Dahl’s psychedelic pink candy boat ride passes by giant edible mushrooms, everlasting gobstoppers, fizzy-lifting, choco-vision and nut rooms and a host of advice-giving Oompa Loompas who remind us of mistakes children make when they don’t follow the rules.
Five children who find golden tickets are allowed to tour the magical Wonka factory, which has been mysteriously shut down to visitors for years. Any child who can obey the rules will be given a lifetime supply of chocolate.
Cameron Sammartano, who portrays the quirky and innovative factory owner Willie Wonka, will give his factory to the most obedient and honest child.
Finding a golden ticket is an adventure in itself for the gluttonous German boy Augustus Gloop (Parker Bair), TV-crazed Mickey Teavee (Amber Ussery), spoiled Veruca Salt (Alaina Malcom), gum-chewing Violet Beauregard and poor but kind- hearted Charlie Bucket (Ryan Bloomer).
Songs include Wonka’s “Candy Man” and “Pure Imagination,” “Cheer Up Charlie” by Mrs. Bucket (Catherine Ussery), “I Eat More” by Mrs. Gloop (Hannah Davisson) and Charlie’s “Think Positive.”
Newcomer Allen Stepp plays a key role as Grandpa Joe, who is Charlie’s chaperone into the factory.
“I felt at home within a week,” said Stepp, who moved to Lumberton from Hendersonville in January. “Considering the age groups in which Deborah works with it’s amazing how she pulls them all together to create a professional-type show. You know she’s here for the kids.”
The tap-dancing Oompa Loompas and the jazz-dancing Candy Kids give the show Broadway-style pizzazz.
“It’s a technically challenging show to stage and troupes who dare to put it on often have the audience use its imagination,” said Deborah Jaenicke, who is directing the show. “But we’ve got some surprises in mind that will keep the audience entertained and fascinated. The set is splashy, fun and unique. Hey, what would you expect from a show that has green-haired Oompa Loompas, who work only for cocoa beans?”
Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp played the role of Wonka in the two movie versions of the show. But Davisson said the stage production takes Dahl’s script to another dimension.
“It’s fun, colorful, fast paced and great theater,” Davisson said. “I’ve bonded well with my show son Parker, who is a great kid who is a little crazy ... a bit like this show in that it’s outrageous and entertaining at the same time.”
Tickets for the 7 p.m. shows are $8. To purchase tickets, call (910) 736-9822.