There has been a long debate or belief that Roald Dahl’s main characters in his most popular work, “Willy Wonka,” represented the Seven Deadly Sins. Augustus Gloop is Gluttony; Violet Beauregarde is Pride, Veruca Salt is Greed, Mike Teavee is Sloth, Charlie and his grandpa Joe are Lust and Envy respectively, and Willy Wonka himself is Wrath.
Of course, this is all open to interpretation especially with regards to this classic 1964 book-turned-hit-movie. The way one person sees a character is different than another. And so is the way an actor portrays that character.
Bridget Roberts, who is playing the likable Charlie in the Pioneer Theatre Guild’s production which opens next month, sees her character as a “good, honest, loving boy and although some things change from version to version, that part remains true for Charlie.”
Roberts, a junior at Pioneer High School, had seen both the movies directed by Mel Stuart and Tim Burton when she was much younger. But admits she doesn’t remember much about the specific characters – until she landed the role of Charlie.
“Before getting the role, basically all I knew about Charlie Bucket was that she was too poor to afford a chocolate bar, had a loving family with some crazy grandparents, and won a golden ticket,” said Roberts, the daughter of Julie and Alex Roberts. “Comparing Charlie to the other characters, she seems to be the most level-headed and sane one there.”
Learning more about the character has been enjoyable for the aspiring actress.
“Diving further into Charlie’s personality has been awesome because I learn things about her every day that I didn’t know from the movie or just from reading the script,” she says.
And what is Roberts’ version of Charlie like – besides being female?
“Charlie is short for Charlotte Bucket,” she says. “Besides that, Charlie is a sweetheart who just wants the best for everybody. She knows that money is difficult for her family, and she struggles with that sometimes, but she’s not ashamed of her situation.
“Family is what’s most important to her, especially her Grandpa Joe, who is her inspiration. Charlie tries to make the best out of every situation and is definitely a glass half-full kind of person. Besides Grandpa Joe, Willy Wonka has been her biggest inspiration since she was a child. She loves the idea that something like candy can make so many people happy while tasting so good, and wants to do something like that with her life.”
Another part of playing a part that Roberts enjoys is character development.
“It’s a huge part of the process,” she says. “At the very beginning of rehearsals, I discussed Charlie and her family’s background with the directors. In every scene, there definitely has to be some character choices in how I think Charlie would react to a situation or how she would say a line.
“A huge part of it is her relationship with other characters, so everybody kind of plays off of each other, but it’s also a lot of small personal decisions from my interpretation of Charlie.”
The show runs from Nov. 2-11 in Schreiber Auditorium. Roberts says rehearsals are going very well and are “always super fun.”
“There are music rehearsals, blocking rehearsals, and review,” she says. “Sometimes they’re with just me and another character, and sometimes it’s the whole cast. I love the full cast rehearsals because I get to know so many people and interacting with them makes my day so much better.
“It’s a completely different experience being a principle character than being in the ensemble and with that comes a lot more responsibility. Learning and memorizing all the scenes that I’m in has definitely been a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge for me.”
Roberts, 16, has a 4.0 grade-point average and also is part of the Ann Arbor Active Against ALS club. Before attending Pioneer High School, she participated in musicals through Young People’s Theater starting in the third grade.
“I learned how to do so much of what I do now,” she says. “I was always in the ensemble maybe with a solo or a line to memorize, but never a principle role.”
At Pioneer, she was in the ensemble for two shows, “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “High School Musical.” The spring of her freshman year, she was cast as an apple tree and the Dorothy understudy in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Being an understudy was definitely a learning experience and a sort of introduction into being a principle character,” she said. “In the spring show, ‘In The Heights,’ I was in the dance ensemble, which was a new and exciting experience for me. So this show has definitely been the biggest step up for me, and I’ve loved every second of it.”
Are there bigger steps in her future?
“I’ve always loved performing, ever since I was a toddler,” she says. “I would put on shows and make up songs when I was a little girl. Ever since then, there hasn’t been a year when I wasn’t in a musical. I also started learning piano in fourth grade and taking voice lessons in eighth, so performing has been a huge part of my life. When I was a kid, I used to want to be a Broadway star, an actor, a singer, or just some kind of performer. Music is still a huge part of my life, and I think I want to pursue something along those lines in the future, but I think if I do continue musical theater after high school, it will just be for fun with a community theater.”
Roberts wanted to give a “shout out” to all the amazing people helping put “Wonka” together.
“The show couldn’t happen without our sponsors, creative team, crews, and cast,” she says. “PTG is such a great community; it’s my family, and I’m so glad rehearsals are something to look forward to at the end of each school day.”
Sounds like she will make a “good, honest, loving” Charlie.