Northwood’s Willy Wonka: An invitation into the “World of Imagination”

Shreya Aithal, Staff Writer

A SWEET SURPRISE: Willy Wonka lead senior Ze Xi Isaac Lee and the rest of the cast opens the night with their inviting performance of “The Golden Age of Chocolate.” (Aya Takase-Songui)

From the very first note of “Pure Imagination,” Northwood’s production of Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” brought the audience into a mystical world of dazzling lights, inspiring songs and beautiful scenery, incorporating powerhouse actors to make the experience sweeter than Wonka’s frothed chocolate river.

Bringing the wintry midlands of the UK to life, the show revolved around Willy Wonka (Ze Xi Isaac Lee), Charlie Bucket (Olivia Outwater) and the charmingly bratty golden ticket winners, following the plot of the legendary book and mashing the whimsy of the two movie adaptations.

The story follows protagonist Charlie Bucket through his family’s struggle with poverty. After famous chocolatier Willy Wonka announced his global competition, Charlie eventually joins four others at the gates of Wonka’s glamorous factory, golden ticket in hand. The children then begin their journey down a road of wonder and danger, each one meeting an untimely obstacle until only one remains with the sweetest prize of all—the chance to be the next Wonka.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a true classic that has a special place in the hearts of many children, placing great responsibility on each member of the cast to bring each iconic character to life, which was fulfilled flawlessly by the cast. From Violet Beaureguard (Catie Jamieson) to Micah Teavee (Meiwen Zajtmann), each actor delivered an authentic persona that engaged the audience until the very last pose.

Violet (Catie Jamieson), along with Veruca Salt (Calista Ngyuen) were definite standouts, owning every moment on the stage and carrying their bratty personalities without a hint of hesitation, bringing back fond memories of the confident and slightly frightening “friends.”

“I’ve never been able to play a character that has such a strong personality that’s so different from mine,” Jamieson said. “Playing a kind of bratty role, as Violet’s not really a good character, that’s actually really fun and challenges me acting-wise.”

The true star of the show, however, was Wonka, as Lee handled quick changes and challenging musical numbers such as “The Golden Age of Chocolate” and “There’s No Knowing” all while playing a mysterious and legendary character with unmatched authenticity. His strong voice carried hopefulness and inspiration, traveling throughout the auditorium and into the hearts of the audience.

The Oompa Loompas, who left the audience giggling after each child’s altercation, were truly the most talented dancers the production could have asked for. With gorgeous extensions and well supported voices, these characters brought humor to each transition while leaving the audience in awe of their talent.

The musical numbers throughout the show left the audience in immense appreciation of Zach Halop and Judy Scialpi, who were responsible for the dynamic voices and choreography that made each number shine.

“Flying” especially stood out to the audience, as Outwater mixed head and chest voice into a flawless belt that triggered the euphoric sensation of flying through the audience. The finale was also an outstanding song, as it showcased each cast member’s unique personality and rounded out the show with a burst of inspiration, emphasized through every bright-colored sweater and bow.

Another standout was the incredible lighting and stage management, as sets changed from the Buckets’ muggy living room to the glistening white walls of Wonka’s Choco-Vision Room. The seamless switches and talented crew responsible for each shining set stood out throughout the show, with details such as a thin light slowly traveling across the perimeter of the stage as Augustus was sucked through a pipe, and Violet turning blue as she chews the gum, showed off the crew’s expertise and emphasized the whimsical nature of the show.

Accompanied by the talented pit orchestra, the technical crew of the production incorporated sound effects to add edges of humor throughout the show and showcase the musicians’ versatility. Their talent shined during each musical number, adding a preppy beat that made the audience dance along to each song.

Northwood’s production of “Willy Wonka” was nothing short of a professional production, leaving the audience with all they could ask for: a happy ending and the storyline’s signature sense of euphoria.

For more magical experiences, visit the Northwood drama department’s premiere of the production “Puffs” on March 22.