MATTHEWS – It’s a world of candy, whimsy and pure imagination at Fullwood Theater this weekend, as Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts presents the musical “Willy Wonka.”
The show premieres Friday, Nov. 8, with a 7:30 p.m. performance at the theater, part of the Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell St. E. The show runs through Nov. 17, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Fridays and 2 p.m. performances on Saturdays and Sundays.
This will be the last time Matthews Playhouse will perform the show for quite a while, director Lisa Blanton said, as the rights to this version of the musical are about to be pulled.
“They’ve done a brand new version (of ‘Willy Wonka’) in London, and it’s about to open on Broadway,” Blanton said. “We wanted to do (this version) one more time before it was unavailable.”
The show follows the popular Roald Dahl book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Blanton said, featuring familiar characters like Charlie, Grandpa Bucket, the Oompa Loompas and, of course, Willy Wonka. One of the things Blanton loves about the show is the variety of characters calls for a wide range of actors – from 7-year-old children to adults.
“It’s a good show for Matthews Playhouse because it’s for adults and children,” she said. “Some of the younger adults have really been helping out with the youngest kids. The young kids have been, really, little pros, doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Finalizing rehearsal schedules has proven to be the biggest challenge in working with a wide age range, Blanton said. It’s often been hard to have the cast of 26 in the same place at the same time and work out a schedule that meets the needs of all the cast members and crew.
“Adults have jobs. Children have school,” she said. “But if you cast the right people, you can make it work. If they have to miss (a rehearsal), they’ll be ready when they get back.”
Blanton’s favorite thing about “Willy Wonka” is it’s a “happy, colorful, bright show,” with a lot of fun and familiar tunes, such as “Candyman,” “Pure Imagination” and the Oompa Loompas’ songs. Each child in the show also has his or her own song, and there’s a song that features each character – something Blanton said gives each actor the chance to shine.
Several of the older actors also have the chance to show off their acting chops as they tackle more than one role. For instance, an actress playing a grandmother at the Bucket family’s shack does a quick wig and costume change and returns to the stage shortly after as the mother of one of the “naughty” factory kids.
“As long as you give them time to swap out costumes, it’s good to go,” Blanton said of giving the actors multiple roles.
Blanton said Matthews Playhouse is using part of the set from a previous “Willy Wonka” performance, but the crew also has added some “special effects” for this year’s show. Though she wouldn’t reveal the stage magic, Blanton confirmed audience members can expect to be surprised.
“We’ve added some special effects from before when we’ve done ‘Willy Wonka.’ That’s enabled us to get creative and enhance what we’ve done before,” she said. “(The audience) can expect to laugh, hear and see some familiar things and have some surprises.”
Tickets for “Willy Wonka” cost $10 for adults and $9 for students and senior citizens. All performances will take place at Fullwood Theater. View a complete list of show times and purchase tickets at www.matthewsplayhouse.com.