Kensington Arts Theatre Willy WonkaBy Courtney Ferguson • Apr 16th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Kensington Arts Theatre 2nd Stage
Gaithersburg Arts Barn, Gaithersburg, MD
$14 Gaithersburg Residents/$16 Non-residents/$9 Children and Students
Playing through April 19th
Reviewed April 11th, 2009
Directed and produced by Darnell Morris, The Kensington Arts Theatre 2nd Stage successfully transformed the Arts Barn into the wacky world of Wonka. All your favorite characters are there for the fun. Music from the 1971 classic starring Gene Wilder, and book by Roald Dahl were adapted to the stage by Leslie Bricusse, and Anthony Newley.
Based on the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the musical is about a chocolate maker named Willy Wonka who holds a contest for all the children of the world. Wonka has secretly placed five golden tickets in his Wonka bars. Whoever finds these five golden tickets will be given the grand tour of Wonka’s famous Chocolate factory, and a life time supply of chocolate. As the children begin to guzzle down chocolate bars, slowly but surely five lucky children discover the golden tickets. Among these children are the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, the gum chewin’ Violet, the spoiled Veruca, the troublemaking Mike, and of course the sweet and innocent Charlie. As the five contest winners tour the factory, they are unknowingly put through a series of tests and temptations strategically set up by Wonka himself. With the help of his oopma loompas, Wonka discards of the “bad nuts” in hopes of finding the one child who is truly worthy of the grand prize.
Overall, the cast sustained a great energy, and gave a strong vocal performance. It always excites me to see actors play multiple characters in one play. This multitalented ensemble had the responsibility of portraying numerous characters throughout the show.
Andrew Mitakides stars as the great Willy Wonka. Mitakides uses his wit and sarcasm to portray Wonka’s madness. Mitakides relishes the opportunity to deliver lines that leave the children on and off the stage scratching their heads. “, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.”…um okay Mr. Wonka. Considering the fact that this musical was meant for younger audiences, it would have been nice to see him direct his lines to the children more so they could feel involved. It can be intimidating to perform for children, but it is important to establish a relationship with them and bring them along for the ride. There seemed to be a lack of response from the children in the audience presumably because they did not feel they were a part of the performance. Vocally Mitakides seemed to struggle a bit on a few songs, primarily during the song, “Pure Imagination.”
Shaun Daknis portrayed the sweet and innocent Charlie Bucket. While vocally he was very strong, I would have liked to see a little bit more energy from his performance. Surrounded by characters who are very distinct and eccentric, the character Charlie Bucket can easily get lost in the mix if not performed with depth and commitment. He gave a mediocre performance that relied on cuteness and innocence.
Doe B. Kim was too cute as Augustus Gloop. His vacant expressions and abnormal concern about food made for humorous moments. Shannon Elesa Miller played Veruca Salt the spoiled princess who always gets what she wants. It wasn’t revealed how much of a powerhouse Miller was, until her solo song, “I want it Now!” Lauren Schmidt played Violet Beauregarde, who has an uncanny ability for comedy.
Tyler Babineau played Mike Teavee. Tyler was one of the stand out performers of the show who really embraced all of his characters. His performance was the most believable. Watching Teavee you have to chuckle a bit because we all remember the weird kid at school who was always trying to chop your head off with a light saber.
The technical aspects of the show assisted the performance quite nicely. Ben Levine the lighting designer did a good job at establishing the setting and location. In a performance space so small, it is up to set, lights and sound to transport the audience to the desired location. The lights inspired a sort of magical, but sinister atmosphere. Primarily during the song, “There’s no knowing,” as Wonka and the children travel through the factory on the pink candy boat. As an audience member you felt as if you were traveling with the rest of the crew on this creepy boat ride. The set was not too spectacular, but that’s all the more reason to use your imagination.
Playing at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Willy Wonka ran for about an hour. The remaining shows are April 18th and 19th with performances at 11am and 2pm. This specific production is definitely geared primarily towards children, I would not recommend it to an older audience.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/3699.
Courtney Ferguson is currently a student in the theatre arts program at Howard University pursuing a B.F.A in acting. Her plans are to go on to grad school to study Voice and Speech. Her credits include work on and off the stage, and she can be seen in the upcoming production of The Laramie Project with the Providence Players.