Anyone who loves chocolate (and/or Gene Wilder and/or Johnny Depp) is probably familiar with Willy Wonka, the mysterious, mischievous owner of a wonderful chocolate factory, who is searching for an heir.
Wilder played Wonka in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Depp played a different version of him in the 2005 production.
Now the youth wing of Stage West Community Playhouse is doing the stage version, Willy Wonka Junior, a musical adaptation of the offbeat tale, this one written especially for young people.
In her directorial debut, HAMI winner Jennifer Vilardi (Favorite Actress in Murder on the Nile) made several interesting casting decisions for the show.
She cast a girl in the role of Willy, namely Lauren Alagna, who has performed both at Stage West and as a professional at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre (Baby Louise in Gypsy).
"We had some boys try out, but Lauren just kind of stuck out," Ms. Vilardi said.
In the story, five children with different characteristics win the chance to visit Willy's chocolate factory and bring along one grownup.
There are prizes along the way, with one very special prize at the end of the tour — the factory itself — but the kids don't know that.
Most of them are simply interested in getting more and more and MORE chocolate.
One of the five visitors is young Charlie Bucket (Christian Gonzalez, Oliver in Oliver!), whose loving Grandpa Joe (Melissa Alagna) encourages him along the way.
Charlie is different from the rest: more respectful, more courteous and less greedy, which is duly noted by the eccentric Willy Wonka.
Also in the competition are the enthusiastic eater Augustus Gloop (Cayla Brady), who, with his doting mommy Mrs. Gloop (Olivia Gustafson) merrily sings I Eat More; the wealthy, spoiled brat Veruca Salt (Dallas Carey) and her indulgent mom Mrs. Salt (Allie Zelakowski), who trill I Want It Now!; and the gum-snapping Southern belle Violet Beauregarde (Kristen Ballard) and her mom Mrs. Beauregarde (Sara Linstad), who sing Chew It!
Also along for the factory tour is Mike Teavee (Dakota Ruiz, 2006 HAMI for Rising Star), who loves any and all technical devices, and his mom Ms. Teavee (Ashley Schoendorf), who embodies every TV mom of the past: June Cleaver, Marion Cunningham and Carol Brady.
Musical director is Carol Ballard, who was music director for the Main Stage's Funny Girl and designed costumes for Into the Woods. Choreographer is Michelle Alagna (Mulan Jr.); costumes are by Donna Alagna (Mulan Jr.).
"The show is going very, very well," Ms. Vilardi said of the rehearsals. "We have great looking costumes, and the kids are so dedicated."
In fact, the kids' enthusiasm for the show has encouraged Ms. Vilardi to continue her education at the University of South Florida with a major in theater and education.
"I want to teach acting and have my own children's theater," she said.
Send entertainment items for Diversions: Coming Attractions to Barbara L. Fredricksen, St. Petersburg Times, 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey 34668 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Children's Summer Arts Show will run through Saturday at the Pasco Arts Council's art center, 5744 Moog Road, Holiday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Free.
"Smokey Joe's Cafe," the music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, will be presented in matinees and evenings at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Dinner and show, $44; show only, $32.95; ages 12 and younger, $26.45 and $21.45, all plus tax and tip. Call (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll-free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.
friday-sunday AND aug. 8-10
The youth wing of Stage West Community Playhouse will present Willy Wonka Junior, an adaptation of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, at 8 p.m. today, Saturday, Aug. 8, and 9; and at 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 10. Tickets are $10. Call (352) 683-5113.
A DVD of Giaccomo Meyerbeer's pastoral opera, Dinorah, will be shown at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art auditorium, 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs.
Greater New Port Richey Main Street will hold "A Night in the Tropics" from 5 to 11 p.m. Aug. 10 in downtown New Port Richey. The Key West-style street party features live music on two stages, a classic car cruise-in, food vendors and the Island Hoppers Club treasure hunt. Musicians include the Sounds of Havana and the Caribbean Chillers. Free.
The Spells acoustic variety band will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 14 at Sunset Beach in Tarpon Springs. The show is one of 10 monthly concerts held February through November by Friends of Music on the Beach, the city of Tarpon Springs and corporate sponsors. Bring chairs or blankets, a picnic or buy snacks at the Rec Department's refreshment wagon. Free admission and parking. No pets or alcohol allowed.