Friday, June 21, 2024

Saguaro City Music Theatre Review: 'Willy Wonka'

By Gina Walsh

To watch "Willy Wonka" is to be transported to a land of pure imagination. Anything goes in this candy-fueled wonderland of dreams and delight. 

Lurking underneath the idyllic, sugar-rushed indulgences are harsh lessons in morality and moderation, orchestrated by a snarky puppet master who is all too willing to give his bratty visitors and their parents enough licorice rope with which to figuratively hang themselves.

Bolstered by a cast of stunningly talented children and a rock-solid supporting cast of adults, the production thrives under the direction of Drew Humphrey, who crafts a colorful tapestry of sight and sound. 

Each of the musical numbers pop with whimsy and crackling humor, led by spirited vocal performances from the likes of Lucy Cable, who plays Charlie Bucket, Raind Gonda as Willy Wonka and Ayla Olivas, who turns in a scene-swiping performance as Veruca Salt.

My 2-year-old and I were captivated at the Friday matinee showing. We adored the way the musical blended aspects of the two Hollywood films, the Roald Dahl source material and a hefty helping of fresh touches. We were particularly floored by the Oompa-loompa overtures, Gonda's captivating "There's No Knowing" soliloquy and the death-defying "Flying-Burping."

Making use of expert stagecraft enhanced by projection highlights, the stage sucks the audience into a realm of flight and fantasy. The show cruises by at a breakneck pace, earning the attention of older and younger viewers alike, who connect to it on different levels.

With the staggeringly entertaining "Willy Wonka," Saguaro City Musical Theatre continues to assert itself as a force to be reckoned with on the Tucson stage scene. The passion and talent on display is nothing short of spellbinding, and the talented collaboration is a sheer joy to behold. 

"Willy Wonka" plays through June 23 at Berger Performing Arts Center. Buy tickets here

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