What better way for The Green Room Community Theatre to kick off their 35th season than with the golden delight?! In a musical production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Green Room has brought the sweetest elements to life in a way that preserves the classic ’70s film and the original children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. With a revolving stage constantly in motion, mobile set pieces, and colorful flashing lights, I was impressed to see how smoothly the cast transitioned through each scene without disrupting the audience experience.

You can see the creative team’s excitement for the debut of this production as even the box office lobby was costumed to perfection with an ornamental holiday tree dressed in sweet treats and colorful candy bars wrapped in Willy Wonka paraphernalia. Some true genius went into this set design. The lighting designer (Katy Sigmon), lighting board operator (Michael Greene), and technical director and soundboard operator (Jonathan Banner) did not disappoint with the aesthetics of this piece. As the audience took their seats, they entered into the Wonka factory warehouse, immediately inviting them into the world of the play. Projections of shifting gears, along with the cranking sound of factory machinery, served as the cherry on top, and the show had yet to begin!

At center stage sat a single wooden chair, a dim, mysterious spotlight, and the infamous Wonka top hat and cane. Without hesitation, Willy Wonka (David Townsend) opened the show with the remarkable classic “Pure Imagination.” A gold star goes to the pure imagination of those who orchestrated the shadow puppets projected on stage, which displayed rabbits, ducks, deer, and even city life, catching my attention immediately. As the scenes occurred quite cinematically, a sense of depth and character within the set design itself preserved the theatrical elements of the storyline by using minimal resources to encourage the audience’s imagination. Observing as cast members turned the revolving stage and posed as Wonka’s ship and machinery, I was heartened by the courage that director and choreographer Caleb Ryan Sigmon explored to express the integrity of this work.

Costume designers Andy Lominac and John David Brown III did quite the job of using their awareness of the characters’ circumstances to dress the actors. Articles of clothing such as the ragged and torn sleepwear worn by Charlie’s family and the glamorous matching suit and dress worn by Mr. Salt (Matt Morris) and Veruca (Emmy French) clearly indicated each character’s social class.

What especially caught my attention was the hominess of the Bucket family (Rebecca White as Mrs. Bucket, Matthew Anderson as Mr. Bucket, Paulie Sales as Grandma Josephine, Holli Armstrong as Grandma Georgina, Taylor Kerr as Grandpa George, and Gardy Munoz as Grandpa Joe). The use of brown paper bags as a school bag for Charlie and the numerous references to cabbage soup as the only meal the family could afford, constantly reminded the audience that when things seem tough, “you have nothing to lose, why not think positive?” When Willy Wonka announces that he has hidden five golden tickets in his candy bars, and that the finders of those tickets get to visit the hallowed grounds of the Wonka Factory, the Buckets expect their positive thinking to finally pay off.

As Augustus Gloop, the first child to win a Wonka golden ticket, Eli Miller kept the crowd buckling for laughter with his fluently polished German accent and his solo entrance describing his preparation for the perfect eating opportunity. At this moment, I found the musical theatre student in myself in complete admiration of the director’s creative choice to use the aisles to introduce a sense of connectivity between the audience and the cast! I can tell musical director Cathy Banner had quite the joyous experience teaching the score for this show, as Miller’s bright smile lit the room while he brilliantly belted out his character’s most remarkable phrase, “I eat more!”

Emmy French as Veruca Salt did not shy away from demanding the attention of those on and off stage as she made her entrance as another one of the golden ticket winners. With a strong voice and deliberate tone, I am sure any role she lands is certain to have a firm hold on the audience.

Keeping sure to remain positive during the adversities of his character’s family, I was relieved to see how organically Aidan Morris embodied the role of Charlie. With the perfect balance of humility and optimism, Morris kept true to himself and played to his strengths in manifesting his character.

I did not notice until the show ended that Townsend played the roles of both the Candyman and Willy Wonka! His stellar performance as the two characters was almost as exciting as seeing the Candyman wheel on his giant cart of candy. Fortunately for him, he had the assistance of the handy Oompa Loompas (Elizabeth Cutshaw, Matthew Howard, Layla Isenhour, Ian Reed Miller, Danica Marr, Paige Prevatte, Rian Rogers, Trevor Sadlowski, and Grant Sizemore) to swiftly move his cart off stage just in time to return as Willy Wonka. The complexity of portraying multiple characters is no easy task, but Townsend made it look effortless.

Do you have a grand idea that you have been exploring but feel that you lack the creativity to get it started? Maybe Wonka and his handy Oompas can help you search the depths of your imagination to spark some inspiration. You have not missed out! If you have got a sweet tooth, The Green Room Community Theatre has the perfect blend of decadent treats to satisfy your cravings for excitement.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka continues through Sunday, December 5. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.