Cast excited about gender blind casting for ‘Willy Wonka’


Maya Epperson

Junior Briget Roberts is playing the role of Charlie Bucket in Pioneer's performance of "Willy Wonka"

This November, Pioneer Theatre Guild (PTG) will be performing Roald Dahl’s, Willy Wonka. The leads of the show, Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket, have both been cast as females. Senior, Mia Galbraith, and Junior, Bridget Roberts, will be using their skills to introduce new female perspectives to the show.

This year casting for Pioneer’s musical, directed by Megumi Nakamura, was done gender blind. “We decided that the way the show is written there really is no need for the genders of the characters that are given to necessarily be that way,” she says, “We wanted to put together the best cast possible and look at everyone for their individuality and their relationship to these characters rather than how they might look  or how they might compare to people that’ve played those roles in the past. So we asked that all roles were open to all genders and all identities when auditioning.”

The character Charlie, played by Roberts, has been changed to a female for the show. “My name [In the show] is Charlotte and it’s Charlie for short, so they’re changing all the pronouns to she,” said Roberts. As for the gender of Wonka, he is remaining male. “I’m playing Willy Wonka as a dude, so we’re using he/him/his pronouns. I don’t personally think that Willy Wonka conforms to gender standards, I don’t think he really cares what society thinks, but I think he identifies as a male,” said Galbraith.

Galbraith worked a lot on the development of how she would portray Wonka. “He’s such a weird character. And especially because Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp played such different characters and because I’m a female it just doesn’t equal how they played it,” said Galbraith, “ I’m still working on it and  figuring out what I’m going to sing, because for a treble voice there are certain notes that I just can’t sing and we have to put it up or just change the notes so that it’s within my range which is different, but I’m open to the challenge”.

On Roberts’ audition form she didn’t even write Charlie. “I actually wrote Veruca, because I felt like that character would be super fun. I did not expect to get Charlie, but I’m really happy that I did,” said Roberts.

On the other hand, Galbraith went into the process aiming for the role of Wonka. “[Wonka’s] the role I wanted,” said Galbraith, “There were 4 people up for Willy Wonka and it was actually three other guys and me which was really different, because I knew Willy Wonka is traditionally a dude, so I was intimidated and I originally didn’t think I was going to get it”.

Few changes were necessary to accommodate the female shifts made. “Charlie is normally played by a little kid, so his voice is really high and even some of his songs are a little high for me, so we didn’t have to change the music,” said Roberts.

A change that was incorporated into the show was the casting of a Mr. Beauregard instead of a Mrs, played by Senior David Crankshaw. “There’s a Mr. Beauregard instead of a Mrs., because David, who’s playing Mr. Beauregard was really great for that role,” said Nakamura.

The decision to opt for gender-blind casting really excited PTG’s members. “Before auditions happened [the directors] said that they were doing a gender-blind casting which is really cool because we had a lot of people interested in other roles that weren’t stereotypically played in their gender spectrum,” said Galbraith. Roberts is looking forward to the alternative point of view that will be showcased. She said, “You get another perspective than the original show. You might have preconceived ideas going into seeing the show but it’s kind of changed [which is] really interesting and really fun.”  


Willy Wonka will have five shows starting November 2nd in Pioneer’s Schreiber Auditorium.