UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Willy Wonka at San Jac College

Matt Griesmyer

The Signal Staff

Oompa-loompa-doompadee-doo, San Jac has a brand new show for you.

The San Jacinto Community College-Central Campus theater program is rehearsing for its production of “Willy Wonka,” opening Oct. 9 and continuing for a two-weekend run schedule.

Acting a scene from Act 2 in “Willy Wonka,” the characters crowd together to fit in a cramped space.  Pictured left to right: Lizz Redpath, theater major; Corie Matthews; Noah Mowry, theater major; and Sarah Kent.
Acting a scene from Act 2 in “Willy Wonka,” the characters crowd together to fit in a cramped space. Pictured left to right: Lizz Redpath, theater major; Corie Matthews; Noah Mowry, theater major; and Sarah Kent.

“Willy Wonka is based on the novel ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’” said Jerry Ivins, director of theater and film.  “This production is going to be a combination of the first film and the novel.”

The original movie production of the book was released in 1971, with the main protagonist, Willy Wonka, played by Gene Wilder.  Later, in 2005, the book was again adapted to film, albeit in a much darker fashion, by director Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp playing the candy maker.

Ivins wants to keep this production in line with the first two incarnations of “Wonka” to provide a community-friendly show for the area patrons.

“Two years ago we did ‘The Rocky Horror Show,’ and the year before that we did a pretty controversial show called ‘The Laramie Project,’” Ivins said.  “We felt that having back-to-back shows like that really allows [the theater program] to stretch our artistic muscles, but we needed a few years where we could go back to serving the community.  These last few shows have been less focused on the academic challenge and more beneficial to the surrounding community.”

The past productions of the theater troupe have included “The Sound of Music,” “High School Musical” and “The Odd Couple.”

The cast size of San Jac’s production is nothing less than staggering.  In named roles alone, the production has reached upwards of 70 cast members.  However, Ivins is planning on doing something a bit more daunting when it comes to the second act.

“We are hoping to cast about 100 Oompa-loompas for the second act, so that they are all pouring in from every direction and participating in the musical numbers,” Ivins said.

Ivins welcomes all, from ages 4 years old and up, to audition.

“If the kids have experience, that’s great, but if they don’t and want to do their first show, that is wonderful,” Ivins said.  “[The theater program] sees it as job security.  If we can get young kids up on stage, we hope that they will have an interest in the stage for the rest of their lives.”

The story of Wonka revolves around a recluse candymaker who has shut himself in his factory and away from society for several years.  An announcement is made public that Wonka is opening his chocolate factory and giving away a lifetime supply of chocolate to the five lucky winners who find a golden ticket hidden in wrappers of his confections.  Chaos ensues, sending everyone to flock to their town’s trader of teeth-rotting treats.

Michael Carver, second year theater major, portrays the film’s first candyman, “Bill.”

“Everyone knows me as Bill the candyman,” Carver said.  “As part of the theater program, I was required to audition.  I first went for Wonka, but was told that I was one of the best dancers, so they picked me as Bill.  I serve as the kids’ introduction to this candy.  The candy by itself has a unique characteristic, but when Wonka adds his golden tickets into the mix, it adds another flavor.  It is not just a sweet treat, but it has this golden opportunity attached to it.”

During rehearsals and interviews, all fingers pointed in the direction of one student for the perfect available man for the role of Wonka.

Noah Mowry, freshman theater major, fills the candy-coated shoes of Willy Wonka.

“Wonka was my first choice,” Mowry said.  “Not because I wanted to be the star, but because he was my favorite character.  I want to take Gene Wilder’s character and apply it to the stage.  The story, plus the addition of using real kids on stage, gives the show even more potential to be inspiring.”

San Jacinto College–Central Campus will be performing “Willy Wonka” Oct. 9-10 and Oct. 16-17 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 11 and Oct. 18 at 2:30 p.m. in the Slocomb Auditorium, located at 8060 Spencer Hwy., Pasadena, TX 77505. For more information, contact the box office at 281-476-1828. Ticket prices are $15 the day of the performance, and $13 if picked up at least two days in advance. Purchase tickets at the Powell Arena Box Office on Central Campus, open Monday through Friday, 1:30 – 5 p.m.

Below is an interview with Jerry Ivins, director of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” at San Jacinto College. The play will be showing on Oct. 9 and will show for a two-weekend run schedule.