The Talent Machine Presents Willy Wonka

A Sweet Ride Into Imagination 

Do you have a golden ticket yet? Live theater returns this weekend as The Talent Machine presents Willy Wonka, the Musical, July 17-26 at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds pavilion. 

The show is based on the 1971 Gene Wilder movie adaptation of Ronald Dahl’s book, in which candy-maker Willy Wonka stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in his candy bars, offering the finders a lifetime of sweets and a tour of his secret factory. Among the winners is Charlie Bucket, who takes the tour with his grandfather. While on the tour, the children learn they must follow Wonka’s rules or suffer the life-altering consequences.  

To ensure social distancing, says producer Judy Curbelo, only 100 tickets will be sold for each of the nine shows, and audience members will be required to wear face masks. Staff will set up chairs according to sales. “We’ll assume that, for example, a party of four will be OK seated as a cluster, but apart from other parties,” she noted, adding that rain shouldn’t be a problem because all seats will be under the facility’s overhang. 

The audience won’t be the only ones wearing masks; the 34-member cast, made up of actors 7-14 years old, will wear clear plastic face shields and keep their distance from each other as well, “to protect the audience and the kids,” says director Katie Peacock. Leading a show in the time of COVID “has been a learning process every step of the way,” she said, with auditions and early rehearsals held virtually. 

Thirteen-year-old Darby Carroll plays Charlie Bucket, and Peacock says the fact that she’s a girl won’t matter to the audience. “We auditioned boys and girls for the role, and she really stood out.” Darby, a Bates Middle School student who has done a dozen shows with The Talent Machine since she was 7, says wearing a face shield to sing and act “is certainly a new experience for me. We can’t hug or high five, and I think ‘what am I going to do, these are my friends?’” But the challenges of performing under extraordinary circumstances, she says, makes her feel “like we’re all bonded by the same experience.” And playing Charlie is especially meaningful these days because “he’s very positive and optimistic.” 

While Jackson Parlante, who plays Grandpa Joe, is only a year older than Carroll, “he’s taller than me so that helps me visualize it,” she says. Parlante, who heads to Crofton High School in the fall and a veteran of eight TMC shows, said, “if the cost of performing live is putting a mask, I’ll always do that over a virtual performance or no performance at all. The show must go on!”   

Willy Wonka, The Musical runs July 17-26, FSaMTh 7:30pm, Su 2pm (& 6:30pm July 19 only), $15, RSVP:

Support Community Theater 

Two all-volunteer Annapolis community theaters are part of a virtual fundraising telethon aimed at helping theaters around the region recover after COVID-19 shut down local shows. Annapolis Summer Garden Theater and Colonial Players are among the 14 theaters taking part in the Community Theatre Thrives telethon, featuring performances and messages from prominent members of the theatre community. The event takes place at and on YouTube beginning at 6:30pm July 17 and all day July 18. donations will be accepted online and by phone at 833-615-0922.