The Dexter High School Drama Club is bringing the popular children’s novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl to Copeland Auditorium Theater this weekend with its production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The story follows the travels of Charlie Bucket (played by student Sarah Fuller), a poor, young boy who, along with four other children, wins the opportunity to visit the candy factory of the mystifying chocolatier Willy Wonka. Unbeknownst to the winners, Wonka will choose one of them to inherit his factory. The winners are faced with unusual tests of character as they explore the factory and encounter Wonka’s singing employees, the Oompa Loompas.
Bringing Wonka's world to life has been no easy task, junior Emily Rosenzweig, the show's stage manager said. The stage show combines elements of the 1977 film version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, but has been updated to include more modern themes including childhood obesity, the proliferation of texting and cell phones, and other issues pertinent to modern audiences.
"We've been working really hard to capture the magic that Willy Wonka's story is known for," Rosenzweig said. "One of the biggest challenges has been the small stage. Willy Wonka's factory is pretty big, and it requires a lot of large set pieces with special effects."
To add to the illusion, students will use bubble machines, trampolines and lighting effects throughout the show. The club also built a 17-foot "Wonka Vision" television screen for a critical scene in the show when Wonka shrinks the children down to miniature versions of themselves.
"We still have all the classic elements that fans of the movie have come to enjoy," Rosenzweig said.
That includes songs from the movie like "The Oompa Loompa theme,” and “Pure Imagination.”
DHS senior Zach Husak has been performing with the drama club for the past four years, and said starring as Willy Wonka for his final show is exciting.
"The show isn't about one person. I'm thankful that we have such an amazing cast and an amazing set that I think will draw audiences into the story," he said. "By the end of the night, you will think that you were part of Willy Wonka's world. That's the great thing about Dexter Drama Club performances; I can always count on them putting on a good show."
To prepare for the role, Husak said he has taken elements from Wilder's portrayal of the chocolatier, as well as the 2005 version of the film starring Johnny Depp.
"I'm not as flamboyant," he laughed. "Willy Wonka is an old man, but he's also a child at heart, who wants to make the world a bright and shiny place for everyone.
"I think choosing to do this show now, following the tornado in Dexter, is a great way to get people's minds off of the devastation."
Erin Palmer, drama club adviser, said the club chose to perform “Willy Wonka” because it is a familiar story and has a large cast.
"The spring shows are always a collaboration between the high school and middle school students, so we try to choose a children's theater piece that is really accessible to both populations," she said. "We also really like to do something that's fantastical and very 'Alice in Wonderland'-esque."
Palmer said the spring musical has included students in kindergarten through 12th grade in some capacity.
"The younger students provided art pieces that will be displayed outside of the theater during the show, and the older students will be involved directly either on or off the stage as part of the cast or tech crew. It's really a celebration of the arts that all of us look forward to at the end of the school year."
There will be four performances of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The show opens on Friday at 7 p.m. Additional shows are Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.dexterdrama.com.