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TMTO: 'Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka'

What child wouldn’t want chocolates and sweets to last them for the rest of their lives? To find that prize in a bar of candy is the dream of all children in the world of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka.”

When the grand wizard of chocolate, Willie Wonka, promises a lifetime supply of chocolate for the five lucky children who find the five golden tickets hidden in five bars of chocolate, the entire world goes into a frenzy ... buying bars, cases and truckloads of chocolate. Four children and their parents find the golden tickets by hook or by crook. Charlie Bucket finds his lucky ticket by chance.

Included in the prize is the opportunity to meet the legendary Willie Wonka and receive a personal tour of his magical chocolate factory. The lucky winners, poor young Charlie Bucket and four entitled spoiled brats, meet Wonka and take the tour. Inside the factory, they see nifty kinds of candy, strange manufacturing methods (Squirrels sort nuts and tiny Oompa-Loompa workers make chocolate), and there is a glass elevator to anywhere. The children must obey Mr. Wonka’s rules, or there will be consequences.

Teen Musical Theater of Oregon presents “Raold Dahl’s Willy Wonka” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and Thursday and Friday, Dec. 13-14, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Early shows are set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, and Saturday, Dec. 15. Tickets are $24. $12 for ages 21 and younger, and can be purchased at craterian.org, at the box office at 16 S. Bartlett St., or by calling 541-779-3000.

The story originates with British novelist, short-story writer, poet and screenwriter Roald Dahl’s 1964 satirical and deliciously dark children’s novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Since then, two popular film adaptations have emerged.

Teen Musical Theater of Oregon’s production is inspired by the 1971 musical film starring Gene Wilder, and it features the enchanting songs from the film including two Anthony Newley–Leslie Bricusse songs: “The Candy Man,” which became a classic pop hit, and “Pure Imagination,” the show’s opening song.

The 1971 film, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” portrays Willy Wonka as a cute, charismatic and semi-sadistic character who doles out fanciful punishments to children who disobey, while the virtuous Charlie is given the ultimate reward.

Director Tim Burton’s 2005 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” features Willy Wonka, played by a toothy Johnny Depp, as a psychologically damaged character suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (brought on by braces applied by his pitiless father, a dentist.) This Wonka really needs home and family.

“Our particular version focuses on the wonder, mystery, delight and possibility of Wonka’s world, and of him as a person, rather than the eccentricity that many might associate with the character,” says Cailey McCandless, director of TMTO’s production. “In our script, he is a more accessible and relatable figure (more so than his movie counterparts), and his eager desire to find the perfect heir for his candy kingdom is what drives the plot. Our production is very much the story that everyone knows and loves, but told in a fresh, visual, warm way that offers surprises and new interpretations.”

TMTO shows are professionally staged, large-scale and high-energy productions. There are 64 young performers, ages 12 to 19, bringing this classic story to life.

Willy Wonka and Candy Man are played by Grayson Weaver. Charlie Bucket is portrayed by Christopher Kranenburg. David Holst is Grandpa Joe, Trenton Jantzer is Grandpa George, Naomi Medley is Grandma Josephine, Amber Clayton is Grandma Georgina, and Ben Frankline and Katie Joose are Mr. and Mrs. Bucket. Filling out the rest of the cast are Holden Jones, Eli Doell, Grace Mehl, Abby Von Strahl, Matt Van Dyck, Sarah Metwally, Ellie Blount, Tobias Whitley, Annie Craven, Isabella Sherbourne and Tuesday Provencio.

“At TMTO, we hold our performers to professional standards both on and offstage,” McCandless says. “And we surround them with theater professionals who are passionate about their work and who have a heart for inspiring the next generation of theater artists. Our hope is that this production reminds people of the power of ‘Pure Imagination.’ It’s a perfect recipe for anyone needing a boost of joy this holiday season.”

Jaese Lecuyer is choreographer; Christine Williams is vocal director; Andrew Youngblood is scenic designer; Michael Stanfill is lighting designer; Sue Quackenbush is costume designer; and Eric Strahl is sound designer.

Evalyn Hansen is a writer based in Ashland. Reach her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com. Visit her blog: ashlandtheater.wordpress.com.

Grayson Weaver plays Willy Wonka in Teen Musical Theater of Oregon's production of "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka." Jim Craven Photography