When Brynn Williams made her stage debut two decades ago at the age of 6 she had two very important things going for her.
"I was cute and well behaved," said Williams, now 26 and one of the stars of the national touring production of Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," coming to Proctors next Tuesday through March 3. "My mom was a performer, and she was auditioning for a show at the Chesapeake Music Hll and they needed a little girl, so she said, 'well, I have a daughter.' I got into the show and absolutely fell in love with being up there on stage performing."
That was near where Williams grew up in Columbia, Maryland. Six years later, just before her 13th birthday, Williams landed the role of the ragamuffin sewer kid in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" on Broadway. Later that year, 2005, she also landed a Broadway role in "In My Life," and she's continued to add to her Great White Way resume in "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2006-2007), "13" (2008-2009), "Bye Bye Birdie" (2009-2010) and "SpongeBob SquarePants" (2017-2018).
In "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which opened its national tour in September of 2018, Williams plays Violet Beauregarde, a 12-year-old girl who, like every other kid in the show, loves chocolate. The story is the same one used for the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," which was based on the 1964 novel by Roald Dahl, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
"The show is about a little boy who is very poor, but he loves chocolate," said Williams. "Willy Wonka has a chocolate factory and he holds a contest in which he hides five golden tickets inside his chocolate bars. Those who find the tickets get a complete tour of his chocolate factory. I play much younger in the show, and there are other kids in the show played by young-looking adults. The writing is so brilliant that it works. As an actor you just have to show this younger energy. Kids feel so much more than adults. They're bouncing off the walls when they get excited, and that's what we as actors have to show."
The show is about much more than kids finding candy, said Williams.
"As soon as the kids find their chocolate, things start to go awry," she said. "The common theme throughout the show is imagination. It's about dreaming, and the power of creating."
While the 1971 film with Willy Wonka in the title was listed in the musical category, this new stage adaptation, which opened on Broadway in April of 2017 and closed in January of 2018, meets all the qualifications of the musical genre.
"The original movie had some unforgettable songs, so we have the music from the movie and we also have some brand new songs written by Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman," said Williams. "I get to belt out a few numbers so it's a lot of fun. It's a great mix of those classic songs we remember from the film and some great brand new material."
Williams' singing voice is something she inherited from her mother.
"I've never taken any voice lessons, but my mom was always singing and music was always on around our house," she said. "My grandfather was also an accompanist for Billie Holiday so music has always been a big part of our family. My earliest memories are listening to my mom sing, so I was probably singing before I could speak."
Williams graduated from high school early but only has about two years of college credits because she was too busy performing on Broadway.
"I hope to go back and finish, but I love what I'm doing and I love living in Manhattan," she said.
As for her favorite Broadway performance, Williams isn't so sure what comes first.
"It's like trying to name your favorite child," she said. "I loved '13.' It was the first all-teenager cast and band. I loved 'The Grinch.' I loved all the shows I was in, and I also did a fundraiser with Paul McCartney and I worked off-Broadway on "Lazurus," David Bowie's last project before he passed away. That was so unique, and it will always remain near and dear to my heart."
'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Tuesday and runs through March 3; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, !:30 and 8 p.m. Feb. 28, 8 p.m. March 1, 2 and 8 p.m. March 2, and 2 p.m. March 3
HOW MUCH: $95-$25
MORE INFO: Visit www.proctors.org, or call (518) 346-6204