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Theater Review: Pomperaug High School’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

In the wonderful world of theater, we actors need to travel across the state and pay the $10 student fee in order to see our Halo competition, and that’s exactly what I did the weekend of March 22nd. 

Pomperaug High School put up “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” with exquisite detail and hilarious lines. The set, completed by Madison Ferguson and Lilly Lum, took up the majority of stage right, the audience’s left. Charlie Bucket’s house was complete with the comically large bed to fit his four grandparents. 

The first act was completed mostly in front of the middle curtain as Wonka’s chocolate shop was revealed when all up-stage was shown. The curtain work was impressive even though there were some malfunctions, including the top of a set piece blocking the curtain’s path. Ferguson and Lum were followed by 10 other students to complete the impressive detailing on all painted flats. 

Pomperaug High School is well known for its student directors and designers. Sophia Ltaif acted as assistant director to Madge O’Toole, Pomperaug’s faculty director. Ltaif also stage managed with Rowan Vas. Pomperaug’s student choreographers are often celebrated for their work at Seven Angel’s Halo Awards; this year, Addison Batoon and Ada Llabiani worked hard to continue that legacy. 

Another Pomperaug student who has been recognized at Halos in the past is Stevie Bennet, who portrayed the role of Charlie Bucket. She was perfect for the role, taking up the stage with a bright smile and adorable hair ribbons. The director highlighted in her director’s note that “He, She, or They – Charlie is the one who gets everything that they ever wanted only because they stayed true to the goodness within themselves.” Having Charlie portrayed as a female gave audience members the opportunity to truly see themselves in the character, rather than feeling as if they are just watching the show as it has been directed since Ronald Dahl. 

To truly immerse the audience in the show, younger children served as actors in the chocolate factory. Each child was given a candy from Willy Wonka, which brought the show to life in such a unique way. Willy Wonka, portrayed by Kyler Kumi, embodied his role to perfection. Throughout the show, Kumi was able to fill any awkward silence with hilarious ad libbing that sent the audience into an uproar of laughter. For example, when the six children were walking through his factory in silence, Kumi added in “Well, this is fun, isn’t it?” that caught the audience off guard. 

Ari Levins, who played Augustus Gloop, and Xavier Chu, who played Mike Teavee, never failed to bring a smile to the audience as they both entered the stage completely immersed in their characters. 

When audiences first entered the auditorium, they were greeted by a projection screen playing a video created by the publicity team which was able to capture exactly how it feels to be in a production; however, I do wish the video was played during intermission instead because I feel some of the show was lost as I knew what to expect for some set pieces and costumes. Overall, I enjoyed seeing the excitement in photos and clips from rehearsals. 

Woodland’s drama department will meet Pomperaug at Halos on May 29th of this year, but this is not the only time the Hawks and Panthers have interacted. Claire Cummings, portrayed Benny Southstreet in Woodland’s upcoming performance, was involved in Naugatuck Valley Performing Arts’s version of  “Grease” with Pomperaug’s dance captains Addison Evans and Sara Gilchrist. 

I believe Willy Wonka is a hard show to put on, but Pomperaug proved that it can be done with wonderful talent.

Hannah Mudry

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