Haddonfield Plays & Players delves into the land of chocolate

‘Wonka’ offering sweet delights for holiday season.

Matthew Goodrich (left) takes on the role of protagonist Charlie Bucket and Tommy Balne (right) plays the titular enigmatic candy magnate in Haddonfield Plays & Players’ production of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” now on stage through Dec. 21. (Photo credit: Catherine Widzins Photography/Special to the Sun)

Charlie Bucket is a young man from a humble background with pure motives, big dreams and a love for a particular brand of chocolate. His destiny is to meet with the enigmatic manufacturer of his favorite junk food and become drawn into the latter’s world of wonders. 

Featuring songs from the iconic 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ — starring Gene Wilder — and new works by the movie’s British musical collaborators Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, Haddonfield Plays & Players’ production of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka” is a musical that aims to sweeten the lives of the most ardent holiday grumps.

The show follows the candy man as he stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his candy bars. Whoever is lucky enough to find one wins a free tour of the Wonka factory  and a lifetime supply of candy. 

Four of the five winners are less than model children, except for Charlie, who takes the tour with his formerly bedridden grandfather. The children are warned to follow Mr. Wonka’s rules or suffer an array of hilarious consequences.

Such iconic actors as Wilder and Johnny Depp have brought Wonka to life on screen with their own personal touch. Tommy Balne, who assumed the title role in the HP&P  production, approached things in a unique fashion. 

“I’ve seen both of the movies at different times,” he related.  “However, I intentionally didn’t re-watch either one when preparing for this role because I don’t like to get into the habit of copying anybody.

“It’s really reading the script, doing research on what is in the script and kind of molding my own character based on that. The script does tend to lend itself towards feeling a little more Wilder-esque or Depp-esque depending on the scene, so that does kind of wind up coming out a little.” 

Despite the scope of its famous movie adaptations, Director Matt Weil isn’t thinking too hard about how to adjust the story to the cozy confines of the HP&P stage. 

“In bringing this show to life, I have come to realize why Willy Wonka is adored by so many: the story’s appeal is in its simplicity and imagination, not in its depth or profundity.” he said.

“My hope is that our show will tickle and delight you, that you may take on a similar journey as my own, and that you will find Willy Wonka simple, sweet, and satisfying — like a bite of chocolate.”

The inclusion of “Wonka” is a sharp contrast with last year’s holiday favorite, which dovetailed with the season perfectly: the stage production of the 1983 film, “A Christmas Story.” 

“Haddonfield Plays & Players is a member-driven organization and each year, we elect members to serve on our plays committee, explained Stephanie Wood, marketing director for HP&P. “The plays committee works hard and reviews countless shows and ultimately presents a proposed season to our membership, which is then discussed and voted on.

“‘Willy Wonka’ was selected because it is a classic story that can be loved and shared by the whole family. While it is not a typical holiday show like ‘A Christmas Story,’ it is one that families can come and see together, which is the experience HP&P strives to provide to the community during this time of year.”

“Wonka” will run through Saturday, Dec. 21. 

For a comprehensive list of show dates and times, visit: https://www.haddonfieldplayers.com/events/2019/willy-wonkaTo purchase tickets, visit: https://tix5.centerstageticketing.com/sites/haddonfield/. For all other theater information, visit: https://www.haddonfieldplayers.com/