If 60 kids marching around as Oompa-Loompas isn't an arresting visual, we don’t know what is.
Moorestown Theater Company’s (MTC) performance of Willy Wonka Jr.—premiering this weekend—features one of the largest casts the company has ever assembled, according to producing artistic director Mark Morgan. The 81-member troupe includes more than 60 youngsters dressed as the aforementioned Oompa-Loompas.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever had a show with that large a cast and that that large a percentage of them were dressed alike,” said Morgan.
MTC’s final play this season (and its 79th overall) is a version of the classic Roald Dahl tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has been adapted twice for film—the Gene Wilder-starring Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), and the 2005 film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp. This is the first time MTC has performed the show.
Morgan said Wonka is a difficult show because of the number of different sets it requires: the Chocolate River, the Bubble Room, the glass elevator, etc.
“So a lot of groups don’t bother (to perform it), which is a shame, because it’s such a good show,” he said. “It’s a magical, mysterious show that’s not done very often.”
Fortunately, Morgan was able to use his connections with the Upper Darby Summer Stage—where he got his start in theater (as did Tina Fey)—to acquire sets for the show. Upper Darby recently performed the show.
Though Willy Wonka is traditionally viewed as a children’s story, it has an all-ages appeal, according to Morgan.
“(Dahl) was one of the classic children’s writers, but he always wrote from an adult perspective,” he said. “There are life lessons in there an adult can relate to.”
And perhaps even more enticing for parents, the show also contains a bit of a morality lesson for children: “The child who does things the right way is rewarded, and the bratty me-me-me kids aren’t,” Morgan said.
The show also has a higher percentage of male cast members than any other children’s show MTC has produced.
“It’s very encouraging to get a group of boys a) wanting to do community theater, and b) wanting to do it with Moorestown Theater Company.”
Willy Wonka Jr. premieres at 6 p.m. Friday at the Upper Elementary School (325 Borton Landing Road), with additional shows at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The show runs until next weekend as well. For a complete schedule of performances, visit the MTC website.
You can also purchase tickets through the website, or at the door.