Pictured: (Candy Man) Chris Afcha (Jen Cole )

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

Serena Emanuel, a student at Westfield High School reviews “Willy Wonka” performed by Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School , as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

As Roald Dahl composed, “There’s no place I know to compare with pure imagination”.  There’s also no place I know to compare with John Paul the Great Catholic High School and their lively, colorful and enthralling production of Willy Wonka. 

An all-time favorite of children and adults alike, Willy Wonka is a tale of a boy’s unfortunate life that is flipped upside down with a winning combination of luck, morality, and honesty.  This classic is more commonly known as the recent movie than the stage musical.  However, because the musical is comprised of plot and musical elements from both Roald Dahl’s book and the 1971 movie, it has loads more energy, vibrancy, and melodies to keep one humming “Oompa Loompa doompadee doo” the whole ride home!  In fact, after much pleading, the original composer of the 1971 movie’s songs, Leslie Bricusse, returned years later to create even more catchy tunes just for the show.

One element governs John Paul the Great’s rendition of Willy Wonka: energy.  Led by Josh Carias, portraying Charlie Bucket, every member of the cast was exploding with enthusiasm—truly eager to engulf the audience with their actions and their words.  Ensembles of Oompa Loompas, grandparents, and snobby children elevated the liveliness of the show, and brought a well-needed structure to the occasional disorder.

Willy Wonka (Larson Gore) allowed the story to unfold effectively with his engaging narration of the show and a purposeful specificity to his character.  Despite some volume issues, both dialogue and vocals were executed with admirable ease.  Carias truly embraced his character and seized every moment to further enhance the show with his passion and fervor.   Carias’ physicality throughout “Flying” was impressively realistic, adding to the magic of Willy Wonka and his factory. 

Also adding to the enchantment of the production, Mrs. Bucket (Kathryn von Tersch) had the greatest honesty and clarity of the entire cast.   Portraying a caring mother who only wants love and happiness for her son, von Tersch raised the standards with her vocals and evident performance experience.  Augustus Gloop (Michael Maggio), however, went beyond these standards by pairing hilarity and skill. He seemed to command the stage with humor; yet unlike others in the cast, he knew to hold back when necessary.  Maggio and others’ ability to attack and master each song helped mask moments when some  fell short.

Willy Wonka could not have been the same without the synchronized lighted signs and absolutely breathtaking backdrop for the factory.  Costumes (Angelica Babauta, Kirsten O’Sullivan, Nora Ogunleye, and Ruth Long) were also extraordinary —especially the creativity demonstrated through the imaginative and entertaining Oompa Loompa costumes and Violet’s inflatable dress. 

Building up to the “Finale”, the cast performed as a radiant entity.  Modeling the Bucket family, John Paul the Great High Catholic School illuminates the notion that hard work, doubtless spirit, and passion can result in something even sweeter than chocolate.