Thursday, February 7, 2013

Willy Wonka, Jr. – Lyrics and Music by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley – Adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timonthy Allen McDonald – Based on the book Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Bart Kresa Projection Design 
By Joe Straw

Based on faulty information, I left Santa Monica with my two girls after rushing out of church and scarfing down a take out lunch.  I arrived at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, California, wondering why the doors were not opening for the show.

A kindly couple told us the show was the following week.   Good, we had time to eat the rest of our lunch and go back to the Santa Monica Library to read books and work on homework, of which there was a ton. 

But, why Santa Monica? The Julian Dixon Library in Culver City doesn’t have the funds to open the library on Sundays. It’s just that simple.  There is never enough money for books and the arts.

So after church the following Sunday we marched ourselves into the lobby.  And this time the lobby was packed with patrons, eager to see a kid’s production.  Why?  It’s just a kid’s show.  We saw this show recently at The Westchester Playhouse and it was no big deal.  Why was this production a bigger deal?

dee-Lightful Productions Presents Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr., directed and produced by Dolores Aguanno and Choreography by Allegra Williams at the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in Culver City.

The lobby was a mess with kids and parents trying to get in to see the show.  It was chaos multiplied by a thousand.  The sounds in the lobby were excruciating and yet there was not this level of excitement since Mickey Rooney received an award from the city. Right here on this stage.  Still, with all this commotion and equipment you would think Justin Beiber was performing.

The Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium is a huge space that probably has the capacity for a thousand patrons or more.  The venue seemed too big for this production.  But as I walked down near the front, to get my seat, I observed all of this equipment, computers, scaffolding, and lighting for which Bart Kresa, of Bart Kresa Design was happy to explain. (The projections were colorful, animated, and added a lot to this marvelous production.)  

Bart Kresa Projection Design 

Dolores Aguanno, and her crew, has worked miracles with this production company, wrangling these kids has to be somewhat short of impossible to do. And yet, here they are working their magic and putting on a show that is far superior than one would expect.  The performers have a define character.  The choreography by Allegra Williams was simple but with enough sparks to make more than a mother proud. All in all, it was a grand production.

On Sunday, January 20, 2013, the 2pm show, I saw The Chocolate Truffles cast and witnessed some wonderful performances by Charlie Bucket (Matthew Sussman), Candy Man (Carly Shiever), Augustus Gloop (Adam Friedenthal), Mrs Gloop (Mirabel Armstrong), Veruca Salt (Socorro Park), Mr. Salt Ben Hilsberg and Violet Beauregarde (Samantha Spector). Willy Wonka (Nicholas Freedson) was a little low keyed for my tastes and Grandpa Joe (Sean DeFaria) had a lot of energy for an old man of 102 years old. (A slight exaggeration.)  Still I found them all exceptional in this production.

Others in the cast were Mrs. Bucket (Shira Berman), Mr. Bucket (Garrett DeFaria), Grandma Josephina (Jessie Grimaldo) Grandma Georgina (Laura Vlahakis), Grandpa George (Jack Merritt), Phineous Trout (Lily Fanali) Mrs. Beauregarde (Caroline Spencer), Mike Teavee (Keaton Asma) and Mrs Teavee (Eliza Spear).

In this production there were genuine sparks of reality and the Candy Man kids provided those sparks.  They were James/Jamie (Michael Spector), Mathilda (Evyn Armstrong), Sophie (Brooke Rosenbloom), Danielle (Jadyn Plesent), and Jeanie (Brianna Cornejo).

The squirrels were kind of cute.  They were Ally Reynolds, Socorro Park, Aidan Nascimento, and Brooke Rosenbloom.

Bart Kresa Projection Design

The Chocolate Ruffles cast which I did not see were as follows: 
Willy Wonka - Hannah Kanter
Candy Man - Katelyn Coon
Charlie Bucket - Misha Reiss 
Mrs. Bucket - Caroline Spencer 
Mr. Bucket - Adam Friedenthal 
Grandpa Joe - Nicholas Freedson
Grandma Josephina - Eliza Spear 
Grandpa Georgina - Emma Snyder 
Grandpa George - Jack Merritt 
Phineous Trout - Aidan Nascimento
Augustus Gloop - Andy Bobrow
Mrs. Gloop - Jessie Grimaldo 
Veruca Salt - Ally Reynolds 
Mr. Salt - Keaton Asma
Violet Beauregarde - Julia Thau
Mrs. Beauregarde - Shira Birman
Mike Teavee - Stanley Funnell 
Ms. Teavee - Gaby Cornejo 
James/Jamie - Laura Vlahakis
Mathilda - Grayson Kanter 
Sophie - Brooke Rosenbloom
Danielle - Jadyn Plesent
Jeanie - Brianna Cornejo

There is a very nice reality about the dee-Lightful production. Dolores Aguanno does a very nice job with the program, the actors are very talented, the singers have strong voices, what more could you ask for?

Well, dee-Lightful needs a venue.  It is a dream for Dolores Aguanno to have a place where kids come together to learn the craft, to strengthen their voices, and to dream the dream of children who want to learn to be confident on stage and in life.  

Coming up next for dee-Lightful – School House Rock and Grease

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