It is difficult to take a splashy, glitzy film, one that kids are familiar with and even come close to making it a special event for the little ones, but Emerald City Theatre, finds a way every time. When it comes to the world of “Willy Wonka”, a world that we have had two movies bringing the book (a fantasy by Roald Dahl) to life in recent years, this task becomes more difficult. Even so, with a cast of 9, on a minuscule stage at the Apollo Theatre, Richard R. George’s adaptation, directed and choreographed by Ernie Nolan, I watched with hundreds of little ones as they watched the story of the magical golden ticket come to life. For many of these little ones, this was their first “live theater” experience and Emerald City knows how to make the story work in an hour, which is just about the time frame that a 3 or 4 year old can sit and concentrate on a story line- they do this very well.
The theme of the story is about imagining possibilities, but of greater import, it teached little ones about selfishness, greed and vanity versus kindness and goodness mixed with love. The kids get to see that listening and following rules are very important in their life and after viewing this production, parents can take advantage of what they all experienced for discussion as to how these marvelous principles fit their own lives. Headed by Jake Carr as Willy Wonka and Hunter T. Davis as Charlie, this cast takes on many roles including being puppeteers and Kevin J. Beltz has designed a simplistic set that works to keep the focus on the story and characters over the glitz that we have seen in the movie versions. Rossella Nitti’s puppets are very clever and DJ Reed has done a remarkable job with the props.
Caameron Harms,Lauren Paris,Loresa Grigsby,Kroydell Galima,Jamie Finkenthal,Frank R. Sjodin and Floyd A May ( who does a very lively Grandpa Joe) round out the cast- all solid in every role they play and able to keep a lot of little ones into the action. This is a wonderful way to introduce your children and or grand children to live theater and you can catch this one through June 12th. While there are performances during the week, Saturday and Sunday is probably the busiest day, with almost all of the performances on those days at 1 p.m. to check the complete schedule visit www.emeraldcitytheatre.com
Tickets are $13 for children and $16 for adults and they do have a season ticket plan that will save you money. Call the box office 773-935-6100 or visit their website. The Apollo is located at 2540 N. Lincoln Avenue and there is parking available right next door.