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Braden Ganestsky as Willy Wonka

Mr. Bucket and Charlie Bucket played by Josh Muyal and Elly Coodin

Brightly colored Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka’s Candy Factory

Willy Wonka Junior cast


Gray Academy Performance of “Willy Wonka Junior” is Deliciously Good

by Rhonda Prepes

“Willy Wonka Junior” is a timeless story of the mysterious candy maker Willy Wonka and his quest to find an heir to his fortune. Under the direction of Miriam Bronstein, the grade 5 and 6 students of Gray Academy make this story come alive on stage for everyone in the audience from young children to babas and zaidas. There were many more people behind the scenes that helped make this production run as smoothly as it did: Pamela Vine as producer, Alda Stone on costumes, Harriet Cipilinski as concept and drama coach, Levi Garber and Daniel Kroft, Grade 10 students, as stage managers and many other high school student and parent volunteers. This is truly a community production and the community should be proud.
The play opens with a fog and dancing lights display reminiscent of a 1970s disco. The audience is introduced to Willy Wonka, played by the talented Braden Ganetsky, who also portrays the street candy vendor and the narrator of the play.

The first half of the play is somewhat void of sets and backdrops with only an occasional bed, box, and candy cart. So, the audience has little distraction when focusing on Braden Ganetsky as he sings a wonderful “Pure Imagination” and later “The Candy Man” song, both delightfully.

Elly Coodin is terrific as Charlie Bucket. He and his father, played by Josh Muyal, sing a remarkably inspiring rendition of “Think Positive” as the audience meets the rest of his poverty stricken family.

There is a quest to find five golden tickets in Wonka chocolate bars in order to win a lifetime supply of chocolate and tour the magical chocolate factory. Each time that reporter Phineous Trout, played by Jared Goodman, announces that another golden ticket has been found, Charlie gets more and more discouraged until there is only one ticket left unclaimed. But his family reminds him that “the Bucket family always thinks positive.” Sure enough, with luck, generousity and a little finagling on the part of the street candy vendor, Charlie finds the last golden ticket.
Willy Wonka greets the five winners in front of his factory and the audience gets a chance to appreciate Willy Wonka’s witty, sarcastic, and egocentric character. He is all-knowing, all-seeing, and intent upon teaching these five children some important lessons. The other children who tour the factory with Charlie are integral to the story and the show’s success. Pauline Vaslavskiy plays Augusta Gloop accompanied by her mother, Sophia Hershfield. Micaella Stone plays Veruca Salt, the spoiled daughter of Matthew Rabb. Yael Ripstein plays gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde with Rebecca Goldstein as her mother. Ariel Hoult is superb as Mike Teavee, paired with his father Bennett Garber. My favourite scene involves an array of dancing deli foods as Augusta and her mom sing “I Eat More”. A close second is the scene where Mike Teavee shrinks himself so he can be on TV.

Willy Wonka teaches the children that they should not be gluttonous, greedy, and rude. They shouldn't disobey instructions, be fixated on TV and technology and above all they should not lie. After each child learns a hard life lesson, Oompa Loompas provide musical interlude singing the legendary tune, “Oompa Loompa Doopity Doo, I have a perfect puzzle for you. Oompa Loompa Doopity Dee, if you are wise, you will listen to me.” The pink haired, green skinned Oompa Loompas are colorfully and creatively costumed.

In the end, Charlie discovers that “honesty is the best policy” and he ends up winning more than just a lifetime supply of chocolate.

The cast practiced three nights a week since September. This grueling practice schedule helped them present almost flawless performances at four 70-minute sold out shows (November 24 - 26, 2009). Asked how he felt about acting in his first musical, Braden Ganetsky replied,” At first I was nervous because it was a lot of work. But I’m glad I did it because it was so much fun. Elly Coodin echoed similar sentiments when he said, “It was hard learning all my lines, but it was so much fun. I got to know more of the kids at my school.”

There’s another life lesson to be learned from all of this… I little hard work never hurt anyone.

Rhonda Prepes is an engineer, educator, mother and aspiring writer in Winnipeg.

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