GMS Theater Workshop to present Willy Wonka Jr. this weekend


By Dawn Hatfield

GREENVILLE — This weekend, the Greenville Middle School Theater Workshop will transport audience members to a “world of pure imagination” with their production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr., a musical based on Dahl’s timeless children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Against all odds, the impoverished, but sweet-natured Charlie Bucket wins a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s secret chocolate factory. He and his fellow tour members — the spoiled-rotten Veruca Salt, gluttonous Augustus Gloop, gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde, and television junkie Mike Teavee — spend a day traveling with the mysterious and marvelous Willy Wonka and his crew of Oompa Loompas through the fantastical factory. Encountering marvelous sights and tastes along the way, the children soon learn that each stop proves to be a test, as only one child can go on to win the ultimate Wonka prize.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr. is adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald. The show features lyrics and music by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, including beloved songs “The Candy Man,” “I Want It Now!” and “Pure Imagination,” from the classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Reese Stewart, a sixth grader cast as Violet Beauregarde, said everyone should attend this weekend’s show because “it’s very fun and there are so many twists, turns, and surprises” in Willy Wonka Jr. Stewart has been active in theater since the age of seven, performing in Greenville Middle School’s production of Beauty and the Beast as well as four productions by local performing arts center, Final Bow. When asked why she devotes so much effort and time to theater, Stewart said, “I love it! It builds self-confidence and helps when you have to speak in front of people, and I love to sing and dance.”

In contrast, sixth grader, Marcella Marlett, is a newbie to the theater world. She will debut as Mike Teavee on Friday night. Marlett said the audience is sure to enjoy the show after all the hard work the cast and crew have put into it. She said, “I think they will enjoy the Wonka scenes best because he’s [Elija Worden] a very good actor!” When asked if she was happy to have become involved in the theater workshop, Marlett responded, “Oh yes — very, VERY happy! I’ve got to meet lots of new people and make a lot of good memories. The people, though, are really what make theater fun. Being able to walk onto the stage, say your lines, and know that dozens of people will support you and say, ‘Yeah, yeah!’ is an amazing experience.”

Kari Thompson, who is in her seventh year directing the theater workshop group, is thrilled to be putting Willy Wonka Jr. on stage with the help of approximately 40 cast and chorus members and 25 student crew members. She continued, “It has been difficult with all of the safety measures for COVID in place, but these students have been real troopers and are ready to present an amazing production to the community after not being able to last year.”

Greenvillians will get their own tour of Willy Wonka’s secret factory when GMS Theater Workshop presents Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr. on Feb. 11 and 12 at St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville. Golden tickets are $5 presale through Thursday, Feb. 10, and $6 at the door Friday and Saturday evenings. Student prices are $3. For more information please call 937-548-3185 ext. 2338.

GMS Theater Workshop was founded by Grace Kensinger and Marty Davis in 1985. This will be the 37th production by the group. The workshop organization is made up of students in grades five through eight, attending the middle School, St. Mary’s, and Montessori Schools in Greenville.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr. is presented through special arrangement with and all authorized materials are supplied by Music Theatre International 421 West 54th Street, New York, NY, 212-541-4684,

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