You don’t go see a play with an all-child cast to be dazzled by outstanding vocal performances and superb acting.
But Archbold Community Theatre’s “Willy Wonka Jr.” has moments where such traits appear and are enjoyed.
It’s the tale of the tour of Wonka’s magical candy factory and five children, each with individual character flaws, who are tested to determine if they can take over when Wonka retires.
While the choreography wasn’t Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, it was fun to watch the occasional miscue and flub.
During the opening night show, Friday, Sept. 25, at Giffey Hall in Ridgeville Corners, there were children who were staring intently at their neighbor’s feet, desperately trying to match their moves step for step. Doing it that way never works.
At one point, one of the bigger kids grabbed one of the smaller ones, and physically pulled them into the right spot.
Director Melanie Nagel said choreography was her biggest challenge. She wasn’t kidding.
Some actors were adequate for their parts; the “take-twosteps, turn-left, repeat-line” school of acting.
But then a boy or girl hits the stage and actually performs the part, rather than saying the line, and they really stand out.
One particular case is Wyatt Short, of West Unity. The home-schooled seventh grader was Charlie Bucket, the lead character, and his acting and singing were far above his years. He is a stage talent to watch.
Casting a fourth grader, Nathaniel Roy, Defiance, as a grandpa, is a real stretch, but the youngster delivers his lines with perfect comedic timing and tone.
Leah Pitman, 8, Bryan, plays bratty Veruca Salt, a role that calls for her to be “over the top”– which she does, and then some.
Leah’s sister, Anna, 13, is Mrs. Gloop, mother of Augustus, the German boy on the tour. She does a great job with a German accent. She’s also an impressive vocal talent.
Sixth grader Richelle Avers, Archbold, does a good job as reporter Penelope Trout, conducting interviews throughout the play.
Good job kudos also go to Moriah Reichert, Archbold seventh grader, who plays Charlie’s mother.
ACT again comes up with another amazing set, utilizing a large turntable to quickly present new scenes. It’s needed, because the set is constantly changing throughout the show as the cast explores the Wonka candy factory.
Three performances of “Willy Wonka Jr.” remain: Friday- Saturday, Oct 2-3, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, Oct. 4, at 2:30 pm.–David Pugh