In 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Gene Wilder portrayed a reclusive candy factory owner who was aloof but eccentric.
In 2005, Johnny Depp brought a darker, creepier element to the role in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“Willy Wonka Junior,” now playing at Lexington’s Village Square Theater, combines the best of both films, said Logan Campbell, a 19-year-old USC student who stars as Wonka in one of two casts in the production. He borrowed both from Wilder’s aloof but eccentric portrayal in the 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and Depp’s slightly creepier version in 2005.
“As Wonka, my goal is to mesh Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp,” Campbell said. “I notice where Johnny Depp got some of his inspiration.”
The production has two complete casts, for a total of 98 young actors playing Oompa-Loompas, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard, Mike Tevee, Augustus Gloop, and the parents who join them on the tour of the candy factory, where only the most humble and deserving will survive the temptations laid out by Wonka.
“I think one of (Wonka’s) biggest things is getting inside the heads of others,” Campbell said. “But at the same time, he knows he has to do something different for each of them. For some, it’s a shout. For some, it’s a whisper.
Alex Cowsert, 20, the other Wonka in the production, also points to the character’s ability to captivate and tempt the people around him. “He knows just what to say to get people to do what he wants. Even if it is with reverse psychology,” he said.
The two Wonkas play off two Charlies: Benjamin Porth, 11, and Haven Curtis, 12.
“Charlie is very humble. Family is very important to him,” Porth said. “Being grounded helps Charlie be able to enjoy his adventure through Wonka’s Candy Factory.”
Curtis added, “Charlie’s different than everyone else. He – or she – knows the struggle. This opportunity is a big deal.”
“Willy Wonka Junior” plays today at 3 p.m. at Village Square Theater, 105 Caughman Road, Lexington. Additional performances are March 14-16 and March 21-23. Friday and Saturday night performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m. For tickets or more information, visit villagesquaretheatre.com.