By Buffy Calvert
On Friday evening, November 3rd, Yasmin Reshamwala, the new music teacher at Andes Central School, leapt to the stage before an overflowing, enthusiastic audience to announce that the students were about to give the first dramatic performance since 2019! And that Willy Wonka himself would be played by Belle Bourke, an ACS alumna who had been in the musical in 2013. She had graciously stepped into the role 2 days before, as a substitute in an emergency. So welcome Willy Wonka!
Ms. Bourke waltzes on stage with drama and a script cunningly disguised but at the ready. The Candy Man (Darbey Mondore) parks her pushcart full of goodies and wows the crowd with her solo paving the way for the proprietor of the Chocolate Factory.
A spotlight flashes on the Bucket family: There lay parents, grandparents and Charlie, spread out in their beds on stage, revealing the poverty of a factory worker. Charlie Orio, as Mr. Bucket and his son, Charlie, played by Laney Mondore, arouse our sympathy and charm us throughout.
On top of the news that the factory is closing comes the thrill that 5 Golden Tickets have been distributed all over the world. Lily Temple, as Phineous Trout, a radio journalist, shoves her microphone through the red velvet curtains. When no one appears, she has the wit to announce, “Sorry, A station break!”
In succession, we meet Augustus Gloop, played by Erysse Elliott, lovingly overfed by his doting mother (Jessie Wright-Bourke in a fetching Bavarian costume.) A parade of kindergarteners, in chefs’ costumes, bearing trays and platters to tempt him, brings down the house.
Aislin Wood, adorable in red velour as Verluca Salt, proves to be a feisty, back-talking imp. Kingston Bottoms played the protective, and equally sarcastic, Mr. Salt.
Liam Sass clutches his Iphone as Mike Teevee, encouraged by his solicitous mother (Myaleigh Rabon.) We in the audience shudder to realize that whereas the TV was becoming addictive when Roald Dahl wrote the book, we now carry the new addiction in our hand, all day long.
Darbey Mondore comes on again, now on as the mother of the blue-note, vaporous Violet Beauregarde (Emily McGowan.)
Four Golden Ticket winners and each with a fatal flaw! And the poor Buckets: no job, no hope. Until Abel Weaver, as Grandpa Joe, takes Charlie in hand and they sing out, “Think Positive!” And at the very last minute Charlie finds, yes! a Golden Ticket.
In the second act we tour a splendidly decorated Chocolate Factory, staffed by sparkling, singing workers from Oompa-Loompa Land and Candy Land Kids, augmented in the finale by an adorable set of pre-K squirrels.
Each winner of a Golden Ticket meets his or her just comeuppance, leaving Charlie as winner and owner of the factory.
The sets were elaborate, and flawlessly adjusted by a backstage crew. Spotlights flashed on to highlight the stars. The sound system needs major adjustments.
Directors Reshamwala, Tamara Titch (tech and sound), Sharon Tucker (costumes and sets) and a stage full of students, (over 2/3 of the ACS pupils!) gave us 2 delightful evenings’ entertainment. Thank you! ~