a young boy holding a book in his hands
Joseph Koler plays the lucky youngster Charlie Bucket in his first leading role.

The world’s most famous candyman and his worthy successor – along with a full host of Oompa Loompas – are set to light up the stage at Stanley Switlik Elementary next Wednesday and Thursday, April 17 and 18.

Following Roald Dahl’s classic book, “Willy Wonka Kids” tells the story of young Charlie Bucket (Joseph Koler) as he finds a proverbial needle in a haystack, winning a trip with a golden ticket to tour the legendary factory of chocolatier Willy Wonka (Charley Dunn) along with his Grandpa Joe (Danny Diaz). 

As Charlie soon learns, however, not everything is as it first appears, and the promised “lifetime supply” of chocolate isn’t all that awaits his tour group inside Wonka’s enigmatic lair. To even make it to the end of the tour, he’ll have to sidestep tests that expose the gluttonous, selfish sides of his companions Veruca Salt (Alani Banks), Augustus Gloop (Luka Harrington), Mike Teavee (Bo Johnson) and Violet Beauregarde.

As always, on-stage magic is fueled by a massive crew of off-stage helpers – both students and “big kids” – and in addition to her cast, director Allison Sayer heaped praise on assistant directors Abi Colella and Kara Pascucci, choreographer Lisa Scobba, set designers Shannon Wiley and Chris Bryk, props manager Laurie Gable, costume designers Riet Steinmetz and Kim Joly, and stage manager Ginger Sayer.

Directing her second Switlik production brought out “a lot of love from the community,” Sayer said, adding that she couldn’t be happier with a group of students ready to learn and roll with the punches through several casting switch-ups.

“I was nervous about doing a show of this magnitude, but I think the kids really stepped up learning their lines,” said director Allison Sayer. “There are a lot of songs and a lot of dances, so that’s a lot for kids to do all that in a show, and they really absorbed it. I hear them in the hallway singing the songs, and they do love it, so at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”

“Willy Wonka” starts at 6 p.m. on April 17 and 18. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, with children age 2 and under admitted free.

Photos by ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.