Dempsey Middle School presents their performance of ‘Willy Wonka Jr.’

Maree Waddell plays the role of the Candyman (center) in Dempseys production of Willy Wonka Jr.
Maree Waddell plays the role of the Candyman (center) in Dempsey’s production of Willy Wonka Jr.
Ava Vogel
Charlie’s family watches Charlie (Maceo Bermudez) open up a Wonka bar as his birthday present. (Ava Vogel)

The Dempsey Middle School Theater Company performed “Willy Wonka Jr.” for an audience of 5th graders across the Delaware City School district on November 16. This show was scheduled to be performed before the premiere of the newest Willy Wonka movie, set to come out of the factory on December 15.
With lots of preparation, the cast and crew are to perform on November 17 and 18 for general audiences. The musical showcases Ebony Marshall, playing the role of Willy Wonka, and Maceo Bermudez as Charlie.

Genderbending Roles

Augustus Gloop (Georgie Morrison) and Mrs. Gloop (Lilian Dunmire) perform their duet with the ensemble of Willy Wonka jr. (Ava Vogel)

The cast of Willy Wonka started rehearsals in mid-September at Dempsey. The show involves all four directors, with Hayes High School students helping to put everything together.
The four directors approached the character, Willy Wonka, from different angles. For who would play the eccentric titular character, they chose eighth grader Marshall.
“We didn’t think that Willy Wonka’s gender was particularly important to the essence of the character,” vocal director Kelly Winner said.
By casting Marshall as Willy Wonka, the directors said that they gender-bent the role in order to bring the character to life. Using the role of Willy Wonka, Marshall has many scenes onstage interacting with both the audience and the characters. Along with giving the audience a fresh look at Willy Wonka, she gets to explore the different perspectives of the role.

Involvement of High School Students
Students who are involved in the theater productions at Hayes High School had the chance to help with Dempsey’s fall production. Serving as both mentors and guides, the high school theater troupe members got to spend almost three weeks rehearsing with the middle schoolers.
“It’s fun teaching younger students about something that you like to do, that way they will come back and keep doing it,” said Kaitlyn Wallace, stage left manager.
Wallace has been a member of the stage crew since 7th grade. Now a junior, Wallace has experienced the ups and downs of every show during her time in the crew. The involvement of other high school cast and crew members helps middle schoolers learn the ropes of theater.
The Theater Environment

We spend every single day together for hours at a time, so we have to love each other at some point”

— Maree Waddell

Middle school and high school productions alike give students the opportunity to create a community within the company. Rehearsals and 5th grade preview days are a time when the whole company is together, showing dedication and putting in effort to put together the show.
“We spend every single day together for hours at a time, so we have to love each other at some point,” cast member Maree Waddell said.
Waddell, an eighth grader, took on the role of the Candyman, who gave Charlie the winning Wonka bar. She has been involved in Dempsey Theater since sixth grade. Among the other students involved in the musical, Waddell said that she gets to create memories and friendships throughout the time the cast is together.


The cast of Willy Wonka shows their Golden ticket at the end of the 5th grade preview on November 16. (Ava Vogel)

It’s Showtime
The cast brings together “Willy Wonka Jr.” this weekend performing three shows: an evening show on November 17, and a matinee performance and an evening performance on November 18. Tickets are available online or at the door.
“The middle schoolers, directors and everyone that has been a part of this show has spent a lot of time leading up to the performances, so come see the show,” Wallace said.

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    dawgDec 5, 2023 at 8:22 am

    Willy Wonka Jr. was a fantastic performance! The choice of gender-bending Wonka I’m sure might have had some controversy, but I think it was a great choice, especially since she did a wonderful job.