PITTSBURG — Pittsburg Community Theatre is continuing its recent tradition of adding its own flair to classic favorites with the musical “Willy Wonka.”
The play follows the story of the famous Roald Dahl novel — adapted on screen starring both Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp — which weaves the tale of five children selected to tour the fantastic candy factory of Willy Wonka. But this time, Wonka is a she.
Jaley Hoyt, who is currently enrolled at Pittsburg State University, has performed in many shows at PSU and Fort Scott Community College, as well as having a minor role in PCT’s production of “Gypsy.” But now she is taking center stage as the titular candy manufacturer.
“When I told people I was playing Willy Wonka they were either really excited or met it with ‘really? He’s supposed to be a man,’” Hoyt said. “But I think that is part of the beauty of theater, the fact that as a woman I can have the opportunity to play this great role and do it justice.”
Hoyt said she sees the move to community theater as the next step in expanding her experience and feels very blessed to have been selected for the role.
“I was really surprised,” she said. “When I was called back I was up against some really talented men, so I feel very blessed and lucky to have this opportunity.”
The show is directed by Jason Huffman, and includes a live, 16-member orchestra as well as its 34-person cast. Huffman also has a stage crew of 8.
He said he picked the show for its family appeal — the fact that someone of any age can enjoy it.
“It’s very family friendly, and it tells good stories about doing the right thing even when it isn’t seen,” Huffman said. “Aside from that, it’s just fun. Most people are familiar with the music and the story and can enjoy it with their family.”
The cast also features a wide age range, with the youngest being Auggie Allison at age 9. Allison plays the role of Charlie Bucket — who finds the last golden ticket.
Allison does a stellar job in the role, performing as if he has much more experience — as do many of his young castmates playing the roles of other ticket holders.
PCT also hosted a community-wide golden ticket giveaway, of which the winners will enjoy free premium tickets to the show, a hot air balloon ride outside Memorial Auditorium and more.
Hoyt drew names for the contest and posted live videos to social media as part of the giveaway and said it was fun to get out into the community.
“This show has had amazing marketing, and I’m thankful for that,” Hoyt said. “The golden ticket giveaway was great, and it was interesting going out to the public in character.”
The orchestra, led by Cooper Neil, plays a medley of fun tunes and adds a sense of life to the whole production. And the entire cast and crew produce a funny, exciting show.
“Willy Wonka” opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with shows continuing through Sunday. Shows are available Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinee shows Saturday and Sunday. Main floor tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and children under the age of 13. Balcony tickets are $8. All shows take place at Memorial Auditorium.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.