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Willy Wonka

April 30, 2013

This weekend, Walker starred as Willy Wonka in the high school musical. He was deliciously unsettling, with an evil laugh and a disturbing smile. Here’s a photo of him surrounded by the other cast members in his golden vest, purple coat, and top hat with a W for Wonka…or Walker. photo-30

He sang beautifully, as other people besides his mother can attest, and after every performance he had a group of admiring children around him asking for autographs, and giving him flowers and drawings of kitties.

It’s interesting how much children like such characters, isn’t it?

The musical is adapted from the movie in which Gene Wilder and, later, Johnny Depp played Willy Wonka. The movie, of course, is adapted from the book by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Dahl’s book is, arguably, the best of a number of creepy, moralistic tales for children, based on Victorian ideas and illustrations, like Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies and Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children.

What is it that children like so much about Willy Wonka, who says things like “and wouldn’t a whangdoodle just love to sink her super-sharp, vicious little fangs into you!” Is it the overt cruelty, which normal adults have learned to mask? Is it the element of fantasy (which Julie Andrews exploited with her title The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles)? I mean, who doesn’t want to get into an elevator that goes, not just up and down but . . . out? 941627_10151435133122635_394182756_n

It’s definitely hero-worship for the methods of a character who does unheard-of things (letting children put themselves in real danger) for a good cause (teaching the children who are watching to behave better). My favorite line (which Walker delivered with a manic grin) is “you’ll find it’s always just a matter of time ‘til we find ourselves in some good old-fashioned life-threatening trouble.”

Typing the program, finding props, filming the dress rehearsal, making cookies for intermission, and providing dinners around the rehearsal and performance schedule have kept me out of trouble lately (on top of, you know, paying work). Walker and I now have a week to do some of the things we’ve been putting off until after the show before we begin rehearsals for The Music Man, in which he is going to be a travelling salesman and I am going to be a “pick-a-little” lady. Oh, and he can now resume singing “Pure Imagination,” as a medley with “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, a blend that never fails to entertain the rest of the family.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Murphy permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:15 am

    I am one of those non-mothers who will attest to Walker’s wonderful singing voice.

    Kids figure out very early that life is not fair, especially when they perceive they’re getting the short end of the stick. One of the things I think kids like about moralistic tales is that they are brutally, unrelentingly fair.

    Personally, I don’t feel Wonka’s appeal; for me Wilder and Depp’s portrayals fell into the uncanny valley of being neither really an adult nor a child. Maybe that’s something other kids liked about him – he has the operational freedom of an adult (and a rich one) with the intellectual and moral freedom of a child.

    • Glynis permalink
      April 30, 2013 8:49 am

      I think it is more simply that they ID him as a big kid (Sort of like how you kids can pick out the difference between older teens and adults) and in the “Kid” category, he’s the most fun person in the show–neither a spoiled brat nor moral center like Charlie.

    • April 30, 2013 9:39 am

      Wonka is a bit like Matilda, another Dahl character, in being “brutally, unrelentingly fair” about the penalties imposed for bad behavior and in getting the operational freedom of a rich adult.
      Pretty sure Glynis has put her finger on why Walker was getting asked for autographs and given flowers and pictures by the little kids–he is the most fun person in the show, and yet somehow approachable because obviously not completely adult.
      As a side note, the Oompa-Loompas had a late entrance on Saturday night, and I was quite amused to hear my youngest child, at the ripe old age of just-seventeen, improvising about how old he is and how he needs to hand over the factory because he’s just too tired to make good candy anymore.

  2. Ron permalink
    April 30, 2013 8:52 am

    Wasn’t Lemony Snicket playing with this genre, too?

    • April 30, 2013 9:39 am

      Yes, of course! How could I have forgotten Count Olaf, and all his delicious evil . . . that tattoo of the eye on his ankle!

  3. April 30, 2013 12:42 pm

    Looks like a perfect Willy Wonka! And you got your part in Music Man! Yay! That will be fun that you are both in it.

    • April 30, 2013 2:16 pm

      It should be fun; we haven’t done a summer musical since Brigadoon, when Walker sang soprano (he’s a baritone now)!

  4. April 30, 2013 8:16 pm

    Hooray for Walker! Particularly for his coterie of young admirers — that’s adorable.

    • May 1, 2013 7:18 am

      It is. I could never find him in the crowd afterwards, which I’ve gotten used to being able to do (as we’re both tall), because he was always bent over talking to a little kid.

  5. May 1, 2013 1:57 pm

    You got the part! Well done! I liked reading this, Walker (and your) experience. Love that he got asked for his autograph, that’s great.

    • May 2, 2013 9:46 pm

      Yes! As a superstitious theater person, I credit my lapel button, featuring a chick making scratches, for helping me get the “pick-a-little” part.

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