Arts & Culture

‘Willy Wonka’ musical a sweet treat for SLO theater goers

Willy Wonka (Erik Austin), center, guides visitors through his chocolate factory in “Willy Wonka the Musical,” playing at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo.
Willy Wonka (Erik Austin), center, guides visitors through his chocolate factory in “Willy Wonka the Musical,” playing at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo.

Escape to a fantasy land filled with delicious candy and chocolate in the delightful “Willy Wonka the Musical” at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo.

The play is based on the timeless children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” written by Roald Dahl. The book was adapted into two movies — 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” starring Gene Wilder, and 2005’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Johnny Depp.

The musical theater version includes some of the classic songs from the 1971 movie, such as “Pure Imagination” and “Candy Man,” in addition to new songs by film composer Leslie Bricusse.

Presented by Kelrik Productions, “Willy Wonka the Musical” is directed and choreographed by Tabatha S. Skanes and Kelrik Productions artistic director Erik Austin. Kristina Horacek Prozesky is the musical director.

The eccentric Willy Wonka (Austin), who owns a mysterious chocolate factory, has announced a special factory tour for five children who find a golden ticket inside the wrappers of Wonka chocolate bars.

Four golden tickets have already been found by obsessive eater Augustus Gloop (Elliot Peters), spoiled and materialistic Veruca Salt (Sophie Long), gum lover Violet Beauregarde (Olivia Rutiz) and technology junkie Mike Teavee (Drew Vander Weele and Sam Gomez share the role on alternate weekends).

Eternal optimist Charlie Bucket (Phineas Peters) dreams of winning a golden ticket but has no money to splurge on chocolate. He lives in poverty with his mother (Rachel Tietz) and four grandparents, including his favorite, Grandpa Joe (Todd Long).

Then Charlie miraculously finds a shiny coin in the snow which allows him to buy a chocolate bar from the Candy Man (Sean McCallon). Inside is the last golden ticket.

The five children, each accompanied by one relative, begin a fairy tale adventure into the imaginative world of the chocolate factory led by Wonka. Along the way, the group encounters the lively, green-haired Oompah Loompas who help operate the factory.

Through wacky ways, each bad-behaving child is expelled from the factory leaving Charlie and his grandpa to discover Wonka’s real reason for issuing the golden tickets.

The acting ensemble in “Willy Wonka the Musical” performs with great energy and enthusiasm. The five actors who play the golden ticket winners excel in their roles with vibrant voices, especially Peters who shines as Charlie. Sixteen talented young actors play Oompah Loompas and the Candy Kids who accompany the Candy Man in a couple of musical numbers.

Austin and his fellow set designer, Bruce Hunter, working with scenic painter Sharon Doran, artistically contrast the gray landscape outside the factory with the colorful world inside.

Special effects add to the imagery, including dreamy snowflakes, bouncy bubbles and eerie fog. David Beals is the lighting designer.

Kathleen Forster’s costumes contribute to the whimsical nature of the show with bright and playful colors.

“Willy Wonka the Musical” is a magical journey for all ages.

‘Willy Wonka the Musical’

7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday

Spanos Theatre, Cal Poly

$20 to $40

805-756-2787 or