Art Beat: Step into a world of pure imagination with Roald Dahl’s ‘Willy Wonka’

BJ Smyth as Willy Wonka.

Nov. 30-Dec. 17, Wade James Theatre, 950 Main St. , Edmonds

The opening of Willy Wonka begins with an invitation from BJ Smyth as the titular character to “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.” What a world it is; audiences, particularly little ones, will love this production. One warning, you will crave candy during the show.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka follows enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka as he stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likable young lad named Charlie Bucket (played by the charming Nina McKinstry) who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka’s rules in the factory … or suffer the consequences.

The Bucket family (L-R): Stephanie Marshall, Brian Knudson, Nina McKinstry, Jeff Strom, Jennifer Nielsen, Vicki Wicks, Marty Wicks.

Though the beloved musical numbers are sure to please, it’s the laughs that will keep the audience glued to their seats. Marty Wicks as deaf Grandpa George repeats after his family, mistaking words like “candy” for “brandy,” to the delighted giggles of theatergoers. Another comic highlight is Merry Senn as an overly doting Mrs. Gloop with a thick German accent.

The four naughty children (Mark Savchenko as gluttonous Agustus Gloop, Shannon Johnson as greedy Veruca Salt, Russell Presho as screen addict Mike Teavee, and Cindy Chen as gum-obsessed Violet Beauregarde) seemed to have a ball delivering their over-the-top characters. BJ Smyth is the perfect Wonka; he smiles with a twinkle in his eye as he leads the children on their dangerous tour.

At the factory (L-R): Shannon Johnson, Cindy Chen, Jeff Strom, BJ Smyth, Nina McKinstry, Sarah McBride, Russell Presho and Kanton Budge.

It may not be too late to get tickets to the sold-out Driftwood show. To get on the wait list, call the box office at 425-774-9600 or email them here.

The Nov. 24-26 performances of Willy Wonka were canceled due to COVID. All ticket holders have been contacted via email regarding next steps. Fortunately, Driftwood was able to reschedule the three canceled performances for the following dates:

Saturday, Dec. 9 (2 p.m.);  Wednesday, Dec. 13 (8 p.m., this performance is most likely to have tickets become available); Sunday, Dec. 17 (8 p.m.)

Original ticketholders for Nov. 24-26 performances will receive priority booking early this week before they open seats to the wait list and the public.

The cast comprises of BJ Smyth (Willy Wonka), Nina McKinstry (Charlie Bucket), Stephanie Marshall (Mrs. Bucket), Brian Knudson (Mr. Bucket), Jeff Strom (Grandpa Joe), Jennifer Nielsen (Grandma Josephine), Marty Wicks (Grandpa George), Vicki Wicks (Grandma Georgina), Mark Savchenko (Augustus Gloop), Merry Senn (Mrs. Gloop), Shannon Johnson (Veruca Salt), Kanton Budge (Mr. Salt), Russell Presho (Mike Teavee), Sarah McBride (Ms. Teavee), Cindy Chen (Violet Beauregarde), Kendra Tamär Budd (Ms. Beauregarde), Royce Napolitino (Phineous Trout), and Lauren Armstrong, Chloe Burton, Lucy Knudson, Olivia Markle, Jaret Miller, and Henry Severn (Ooompa-Loompas).

The creative team includes Katie Soulé and Brian Fletcher (co-producers), Jenny Cross (director), Sean Morrone (stage manager), Leigh Lindell Olson (music director), Justin Jay Smith (choreographer), Rex Goulding (scenic designer), Frendt Theatrical Projections LLC (projections), Jenna McElroy (costume designer), Richard Beckerman and Chris Ertel (lighting designers), Nancy Johnson (properties designer), Henry S Brown, Jr. (sound designer), Tom LeClair and Leanne Markle (scenic artists), Jeff Vaughan (sound engineer), Bailey Dobbins (build supervisor), Chantal Burns and Brianna Baldwin (assistant properties designers), Bethany Arneson and Anna McLane (assistant stage managers).

Approximate run time: two hours including a 15-minute intermission

Content information: this production is appropriate for all ages, but is most suitable for children ages 5+

Special effects warning: This production includes the use of UV lights/spinning-motion projections and an approximately 15-second strobe light. If you have any specific concerns, please reach out to the office.

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“Songs for a Winter’s Night”

2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 16, Trinity Lutheran Church, 6215 196th St. S.W., Lynnwood

As the winter solstice draws close, our spirits are brightened by the warmth of candlelight and holiday cheer.

This year, celebrate the wonder of the season with the Northwest Firelight Chorale. You’ll be moved by powerful sacred selections, stirred by a rousing spiritual, and delighted by seasonal classics, including tunes from Peanuts and everyone’s favorite holiday film White Christmas. Amid the mysteries and miracles of December darkness, this not-to-be-missed program will fill you with hope and light.

Trinity Lutheran has ample parking. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth (ages 12 and under).

— By Elizabeth Murray

Photo by Brittany Gross

Elizabeth Murray is a freelance writer thankful to call Edmonds home. When she’s not busy wrangling her two kids (and husband), you can find her playing ukulele.

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