Liam Paynter and Niam Sachdev might have similar names, but that’s where the similarities stop. The two Outcry Theatre actors are getting ready to start their production of Willy Wonka – a musical adaptation of the candy-filled movie. Liam, who towers over even adults, is set to play Willy Wonka himself. According to his directors, his “sassy” disposition makes him perfect for the character. Niam, on the other hand, isn’t much bigger than a teaspoon of sugar himself – and he’s just as sweet.
This isn’t the first time the two have been in a production together. In March, Paynter played Matthew in Anne of Green Gables and Sachdev played Moody Spurgeon.
What got you guys into theater?
Paynter: I started acting four years ago. Outcry Theatre is my go-to spot; I love acting here. I started with a summer camp because I had nothing to do one summer and my mom wanted me out of the hosue. She knew this place so she called up and was like, “Hey, I have an 11-year-old boy.” Ms. Becca picked up the phone and was like, “Well, I have the place for him.” I have not turned back since. I’ve done as many shows as I can and I’ve grown a lot here. I love acting here. My first show was their adaptation of The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, and it was a very fun one, one of my favorite shows I’ve ever been in. I’ve been doing shows here consistently since then. And now, we’re doing Willy Wonka, which is probably the biggest and most challenging show so far. I’ve never been a huge musical man, but I’m very excited to undertake this and get better at musicals. The show and the role is very whimsical and out of my comfort zone, and I’m very excited to step into that and grow even more.
Sachdev: I started acting when I was six with North Texas Performing Arts. My first show was 101 Dalmations and I played Jasper. I did some other shows and then stumbled into Outcry. I started with summer camp, where I did Peter Pan, and from there I did Anne of Green Gables and that kind of thing. Then I did a musical called Finding Nemo Jr. which was my first show with Mrs. Becca (the director for the older group of children). Here I am now playing Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka. I’m excited for the flying scene and also to get to sing lots of fun songs and just act joyful and have a good time.
What should the audience be the most excited about?
Paynter: Everyone should come see the show. It’s going to be great. It’s at the Addison Theatre Center, which is a very big theater and it’s on the main stage. We’re going to use this set to the best of our abilities. We’re going to throw candy, so it’s a little interactive. It’s all just so amazing. Every song brings so much to the show, and I think every song is unique and very captivating.
We have such a talented cast to bring this to life. Everyone is putting in 110% effort every day, really trying to make this happen. We’re still kind of early in the process. We’re a pretty good chunk of the way through the book at this point. It’s a beefy show, and it’s a tough undertaking, but I think everyone’s really dedicated and really wants to see this come to life.
What is your favorite part of working on the production?
Sachdev: I really like the music. It’s just so breathtaking. It’s a wonderful experience for all of us, and I just can’t wait to see it happen. It’s so fun to see the process and steps. With the singing, you get to make it exactly how you want it. You have to really push yourself to the limits and you’ve got to be in the character and it’s awesome.
Paynter: And the dancing is magnifique. It’s kind of a staple of Outcry, in my opinion. Something that we’re doing with this show that I feel a lot of other productions don’t do is really going hard into the movement of the dances. There’s never a dull moment in these numbers because everyone is bopping around and really showing off the energy that we all have. It’s great.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, directed by Becca Johnson-Spinos, will run at the Addison Theatre Centre from Jan. 18 – Jan. 21. Tickets are $10-15 for general admission and $20 for premium reserved seating. Tickets are available online and at the door.