WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Plays Berkeley Playhouse, Now thru 8/19


Berkeley Playhouse closes its 2011-12 main stage season with a delicious adaptation of Roald Dahl's WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Berkeley Playhouse founding Artistic Director Elizabeth McKoy helms this musical treat, based on Roald Dahl's stylish children's story about the world famous candy man, starring noted Bay Area singer/songwriter, musician, and recording artist Vernon Bush in the title role. Roald Dahl'S WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY plays tonight, July 14 through August 19 at the Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley.

Willy Wonka, owner of a magical and mysterious chocolate factory, excels at making candy. He is ready to retire, however, and sets out on a quest to find a "bright spark," an honest and worthy heir to continue his candy confectioning. Filled with sweet surprises, including aerial acrobatics, bungee jumping, and a professional Oompa Loompa dance ensemble, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY features such memorable tunes from the classic family film as "The Candy Man," "Pure Imagination," "Oompa Loompa," and "I Want it Now" by Academy and Grammy Award winners Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley; the musical also features a new script adapted under the auspices of the Dahl Estate.

"We are taking WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY back to its cinematic and musical roots, the 1970s," said director and Berkeley Playhouse Artistic Director Elizabeth McKoy. "Our production is a funkadelic interpretation of the classic Roald Dahl story about rediscovering love, faith, and hope in the future. Wonka yearns to rediscover innocence in a world that he believes has gone haywire. The world that we are living in today can certainly feel like it has gone haywire as well. The music in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is fun and energetic and we hope that this production not only portrays all that makes Roald Dahl's stories special, but also reinterprets it in a way that provides a bit of escapism, a journey of pure imagination, for the musicians, actors, and audiences alike."

Vernon Bush makes his Berkeley Playhouse debut as Willy Wonka in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Bush is a singer/songwriter, musician and recording artist. He worked closely with the late Whitney Houston as well as jazz legend Nancy Wilson. Additionally, he has opened for artists including Gladys Knight, Stanley Jordan, Mickey Hart, and Michael Franti & Spearhead, and has toured all over the world. He is a member of the a cappella group Sovoso and is also a featured vocalist with the Glide Ensemble Choir at the world-renowned Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY features a phenomenal cast of professional adult actors, as well as an alternating cast of youth actors trained in the Berkeley Playhouse Conservatory professional internship programs, including: Dakota Dry (Annie, Oliver) and Lucy Urbano (My Son Pinocchio, The Jungle Book) as Charlie; Paul Loper (Annie) as Grandpa Joe; Ben Rotenberg (Lucky Duck, My Son Pinocchio) and Aasha Dev (Honk Jr., My Son Pinocchio) as Mike Teavee; Leo Jergovic (Cinderella, Enchanted, Narnia) and Robin Rojas-Cheatham (Lucky Duck, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) as Augustus Gloop; Emma Choate (Seussical, the Musical, Peter Pan, Cinderella) and Juliet "Jet" Harper (Grease) as Veruca Salt; Hannah Dworkin as Mrs. Bucket; Bonnie Lafer as Mrs. Beauregarde; Alexis Lane Jensen as Mrs. Gloop; Miyaka Cochran as Mr. Bucket; Chad Dickerson as Mr. Salt; and Amanda King as Mrs. Teavee. Rounding out the cast are Emily Abel, Deirde Ashby, Cera Byer, Sachi Granich, Michelle Huebel, Brie Martin, Matt Ono, Linnea Snyderman, Jesper Tran, and Lauren Vance.

Elizabeth McKoy directs WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. A passionate theater teaching artist and Education Director for over 25 years, McKoy foundEd Berkeley Playhouse in 2007. For the company, she has directed numerous productions, including Peter Pan, Cinderella, Enchanted, Into The Woods, The Music Man, and Bravado, among others. Additionally, McKoy spearheaded a new musical works program for Berkeley Playhouse, commissioning new musicals including the fully-staged workshop of Born and Raised and Bravado. In addition to directing, McKoy guides and trains teaching artists and writes curriculum for Berkeley Playhouse Conservatory, which now serves over 500 kids each year. She continues to oversee the vision for the Berkeley Playhouse main stage and youth companies, outreach, and education programs.

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