RCTC production of Willy Wonka opens Friday

Elliott Maas, as Charlie (left), and Andrew Jacobson, as Willy Wonka, play two of the leads in RCTC’s production of Willy Wonka. (Staff photo by Todd Moen)
Elliott Maas, as Charlie (left), and Andrew Jacobson, as Willy Wonka, play two of the leads in RCTC’s production of Willy Wonka. (Staff photo by Todd Moen)

River City Theatre Company’s production of Willy Wonka opens Friday, Sept. 13, at the Watertown-Mayer Performing Arts Center.

The two-weekend run opens with 7 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Sept. 15. The show continues next Friday and Saturday, Sept. 20-21, with 7 p.m. shows, and closes on Sunday, Sept. 22, with another 2 p.m. matinee.

“River City Theatre Company is looking to retell a classic morality tale with the same connectivity and immediacy that the films have,” director Hannah Steblay-Olson said. “There is a lot of delight, spectacle, and great performances by local actors.”

Based on Roald Dahl’s classic book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the stage adaptation by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald follows Charlie Bucket and his Grandpa Joe as they seek one of the coveted golden tickets that offer a prize of a lifetime — to tour the mysterious Wonka chocolate factory. This is the very first time Wonka has opened his factory to anyone, and these winners and their guests are excited to see what’s inside.

In addition to Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Veruca Salt and Mike Teavee are recipients of the coveted golden ticket. One by one, the children’s nasty habits eliminate them from the contest, leaving only the child who is pure of heart to accept a prize beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

The show will include a cast of 50, including 31 oompa loompas between the ages of 6 and 13. According to RCTC’s Lindsay Zumbrunnen, the show is not a full musical, but does include several musical numbers with singing and dance, the first time the company has included song and dance selections. This is the company’s 10th production since its founding in 2008.

This production will also mark another first for River City Theatre Company, as it introduces a whole new element to the show. Attendees will not only be able to see the show — they’ll also be able to smell it.

“The play will not only look and sound and feel like the story we all know and love, but it will also smell like the candy that the kids are eating, and the chocolate river they are seeing, and the blueberry that Violet Beauregarde turns into,” Steblay-Olson said.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).