Wonka Factory opens in Anoka

What’s fast-moving, delightfully funny with award-winning music, choreography and special effects to boot?

Josiah Nelson is Willy Wonka in the Anoka Children Theatre’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” The show opens March 30.
Josiah Nelson is Willy Wonka in the Anoka Children Theatre’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.” The show opens March 30.

It’s “Willie Wonka Jr.”

And Anoka Children’s Theatre young thespians are raring to share their acting finesse on this 80-minute über-entertaining production.

The show opens March 30 and runs for four performances through April 1 at the Anoka Middle School for the Arts at 1523 Fifth Ave. S. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. all three days, with a matinee on April 1 at 2 p.m. Adults $8, youth $4 (18 and under).

“I think this show is really fun with a capital F,” said Judy Trempe, who co-directs the show with LeAnn Snidarich.

“It’s kind of magical, with bubbles and kids flying. There’s a lot of good acting with personalities. Wonderful singing.”

Audience members may recognize such favorite songs as “The Candy Man” and “The Golden Age of Chocolate.”

“This play is filled with original music of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ but has a modern twist to it,” said co-director LeAnn Snidarich.

‘Old with the new’ 

Set in the techie 21st century, the show is replete with allusions to TV, rather than the radio in the original script, iPads and Nintendo games. “It’s a combination of the old with the new,” Snidarich said.

Audiences will be transported to a Fizzy Lifting Room. They’ll check out an Everlasting Gourmet Gobstopper Machine in the Inventing Room and see a character get shrunk to barely six inches in the Choco-Vision Room.

The show, based on a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s timeless “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” starts with an astounding announcement.

Willy Wonka, a reclusive and famous candy maker, announces that five people will win an opportunity to tour his famous factory and learn the secret ingredients of his world famous candy. One lucky person will win chocolate bars for life.

But the winning tickets are tucked inside the wrapper of his chocolate bars and people must first purchase the candy for a chance to win.

Young Charlie Bucket longs to win, but he and his family are poor. There’s no way they can afford to buy the delicacies. But magic can happen and ACT actors bring the magic to light.

Exciting show for kids

Snidarich said the show is exciting, especially for kids – a show that comes with lessons. There are greedy children, the golden ticket winners who have less than desirable traits, and, conversely, Charlie Bucket with few possessions but who has a heart of gold.

The show fosters hope for every child and teaches “it’s not the material things you have, but the things in your heart that matter,” Snidarich said.

Thirty-five actors round out the cast – the Bucket family, the golden ticket winners, Oompa Loompas, cooks, squirrels and more – comprising Anoka-Hennepin School District students in grades four through eight.

ACT is part of an Anoka Community Education fine arts program. The group performs two productions a year.

ACT’s first production in 1990 was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Since the first show, cast size has ranged from 20 to 52. Audiences have grown from 100 to more than 3,000 patrons.

The theater group is the recipient of a 2008 Project Award from the Minnesota Community Education Association.

For tickets call the reservation line at 763-506-5114. Tickets are also available at the door.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]