Theatre Centreville Presents Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka


via @theatrecville on Instagram

Kayla Katounas

On April 22 and 23, Theater Centreville performed their spring musical, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. This was Centreville’s second show of the year, after a successful run of Mutually Assured Destruction in November.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka is based on the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, published in 1964. It follows Charlie Bucket, one of five children who receive a “golden ticket,” a rare invitation to tour candymaker Willy Wonka’s illustrious and whimsical chocolate factory. It had been adapted to film twice, in 1971 and 2005, with an upcoming Timothée Chalamet-led prequel, titled Wonka, also set to release soon.

As sweet as candy, Centreville’s production of Willy Wonka brought all the fun that one would come to expect from the children’s classic. Many of the actors were given big shoes to fill, with the classic films featuring the likes of Gene Wilder, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Freddie Highmore, but they all delivered, giving impressive and heartfelt performances. As the titular Willy Wonka, Alexander Cox had fun approaching the challenges of playing the “eccentric, whimsical, and somewhat cynical character.”

“The biggest challenge playing Wonka was attempting to balance his eccentrism with his reserved nature. That juxtaposition is what made the role really fun to play, though!” said Cox, whose first performance with Theatre Centreville was this one. He called it “a huge honor” to “come in being able to adopt one of the leads,” as “everybody in the department is passionate about the thespian arts, and that is very apparent.”

Kelley Simpkins played Ms. Gloop, who she described as “an overbearing mother” that “would do anything for her child.” She is the mother of one of the children invited to the chocolate factory. Simpkins said the “biggest challenge” of playing the role was the German accent. “I had to get used to pronouncing my W’s as V’s,” she noted, along with having to learn a few lines in German.

Centreville’s previous show was a play, and there were many differences in the process of undertaking a musical this spring. Simpkins described the play as “a lot less stressful than Wonka,” with fewer people, set pieces, songs, and costume changes. Head tech and costume design head Laura Mineo also described musicals as “a lot more challenging,” albeit “a ton of fun from all ends.” 

“From a costume designer’s perspective, for one, generally cast sizes are significantly larger than plays, and many cast members have multiple costumes throughout the production, requiring significant time management to provide such a high volume of pieces, as well as coordination of quick changes, which involves helping actors change in time for their next appearance,” explained Mineo, noting one quick change that had to be made in “under 14 seconds.”

As head tech, Mineo and other tech students required a “high level of coordination between departments to design lighting, costumes/hair and makeup, set, props, as well as coordinate scene transitions.” 

Alternatively, head of sound Keshmin Curtusan said that the experience doing sound for a musical compared to the play earlier in the year “wasn’t different at all,” since there was music used in Mutually Assured Destruction as well. Curtusan shared a time when the power went out prior to a show, saying that if it had not come back, they would have been forced to “delay the show.” Luckily the power came back and they were able to put on a great production.

This performance was a Cappies show. Cappies is a program for high school students interested in journalism and theater, where they attend high school performances, reviewing them and nominating them for awards at the end of the year, presented in a Tony Awards-like ceremony held at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Cappies critics attended the Saturday evening show, making Theatre Centreville eligible for nominations at the gala in June. Centreville received one nomination, in the “Vocalist in a Male Role” category, for Madelyn Regan as Charlie Bucket.

Laura Mineo said, “[Theater is] such a valuable experience, so if you’re looking into trying something new, I definitely recommend it!” Theatre Centreville should be proud of their work on such an impressive show, and they encourage anyone interested to give it a try!