“Willy Wonka” shines at Oakcrest School as all-girl cast masters gender shifts with magnificent costuming


Pictured: Cathryn Treco, Camille Carter-Thompson, and Bonnie Newton (Laura Kuah)
March 6, 2013

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Talia Brenner, a student at Walt Whitman High School , reviews “Willy Wonka” performed by Oakcrest School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Animated character portrayals, beautiful vocals, and energy flowing as incessantly as Wonka’s chocolate river all contributed to the vivacity in Oakcrest School’s charming production of Willy Wonka.

Roald Dahl’s 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first introduced the tale of Charlie Bucket. Now a children’s classic, the story was adapted into movies in 1971 and 2005. Oakcrest School presented a musical adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald.

Since Oakcrest is an all-girls school, female students played all characters. Lead characters Charlie Bucket, Willy Wonka, and Grandpa Joe (now Grandma Joe) were portrayed as females, while traditionally male supporting and featured characters were played as males. Oakcrest successfully tackled all issues that could have arisen from this gender-shifting, such as costume design by Lovisa Magnusson-Odelstierna, which featured vivid designs that identified characters as male or female while contributing to the humorous and exuberant plot. Highlights were the Oompa Loompas’ matching white bottoms and whimsical striped knee socks, and Mr. Bucket’s hilariously awkward-looking corduroy pants. Sound operation was an additionally impressive element, as Alex Aguilar seamlessly managed an excellent balance in Oakcrest School’s chapel, a space with extremely challenging acoustics.

Annie Pacious brought childlike enthusiasm and expression to the role of Charlie Bucket, which thoroughly enhanced the cheerful-against-all-odds character who finds a prized Golden Ticket to Wonka’s Factory, and through honesty wins the famed chocolate maker’s favor. Sophie Buono’s old-woman character voice offered dimension to Charlie’s Grandma Joe, yet her clear, pure singing never failed to impress. Willy Wonka’s vocal score, extending well into tenor range, might have easily posed an issue to a female singer; however, this potential problem was solved by Cathryn Treco’s impressive range. Treco’s quirky portrayal of the eccentric Wonka was augmented by her additional character choices, which brought life beyond the script.

Willy Wonka featured a large number of supporting character, all of whom contributed to the humor of the show. Some scene-stealers were Violet Beauregarde (Gianna Ridout) and her mother Mrs. Beauregarde (Madie Kilner), who put a sassy modern spin on the gum-chewing brat and her permissive mother. Mrs. Gloop (Laura Cermak) maintained a boisterous comic presence and a consistently over-the-top German accent. Mrs. Teavee (Madeleine Lucas) performed a cleverly-constructed number, which she also choreographed, featuring dancing on Dance Dance Revolution mats and a Wii-remote tango, creatively fitting the show’s modern setting. Perhaps most impressive, however, was reporter Phineous Trout (Bonnie Newton), because unlike other supporting characters, her character was not inherently funny, yet Newton’s witty, sarcastic delivery brought the audience to laughter again and again.

With around 40 students involved, close to one third of Oakcrest’s enrollment contributed to Willy Wonka.  With such a large cast, some slips in diction and maintaining harmonies were difficult to avoid. Yet, the widespread dedication to the production clearly manifested itself in energy and commitment from the entire cast, a trait certainly to be commended.

Oakcrest School’s production of Willy Wonka was a delightful embodiment of a classic tale. Even though most audience members were well-acquainted with the story’s touching ending, many could not help but beam as Charlie and Wonka donned matching purple jackets, illustrating Charlie’s reward for being the “good child,” while never forgetting the story’s whimsical humor.

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