The Orpheum Soiree: A Whimsical Night Inspired by Willie Wonka

The Orpheum Soiree:
A Whimsical Night Inspired by Willy Wonka

By Sandi Butler Hughes

When Charlie found a Golden Ticket in the classic tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he is transported into the fanciful world of Willy Wonka. Guests at this year’s annual Orpheum Soiree will experience a magical evening of delectable dishes, specialty cocktails, and fantastical fun on Friday, November 15.

The 2019-20 Broadway series is bringing the stage production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the Orpheum Theatre (January 14-19, 2020). The story is a favorite, and a whimsical theme is ideal for the annual fundraising event. The proceeds from the evening benefit the Orpheum Theatre Group’s education and community programs serving 40,000 students, teachers, and families annually. “This year’s Soiree, inspired by our presentation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, promises to be one of the most fun events the Orpheum has ever hosted,” said Brett Batterson, President and CEO of the Orpheum Theatre Group. “As a nonprofit cultural institution, events like the Soiree ensure that we can continue to expand our education programming – providing transformative access to the arts to the students, teachers and families of the Mid-South,” he continued.

Sponsors for this year’s Soiree include First Tennessee, Greenway Home Services, UBS, and Horseshoe Tunica. Much like the Orpheum, the team at Horseshoe are pros in the art of presentation and entertainment. They will be transforming the historic theatre into the “world of pure imagination,” as Willy Wonka says. “The transformation of the Orpheum will be around color and whimsy,” said Ricky Busey, Vice President of Human Resources & Business Development with Caesars Entertainment. “I would not expect Oompa Loompas to be floating in the air from too much bubble gum, but you can expect to see bright colors, fun images, and a feeling of being transported on your own golden ticket experience.”

Ryan Trimm is a local restaurateur extraordinaire and part of a team of culinary partners participating in the event. “The Orpheum team always puts on a great party every year. It's not every night you get to get dressed up and enjoy a night on the stage. The auction items are top notch, the ambiance is uplifting and dare I say the food is fantastic,” Ryan said. He explains that he had always had a certain affinity for art and theatre, and was always surrounded by music, art books, museum trips, musicals and plays at a young age. “I can thank my parents for that. It scares me to think that some youth have few opportunities to engage with these same experiences. Therefore, it is important we help support the great cornerstones of art we have in Memphis,” he shared. “Obviously, the Orpheum is a major part of this culture.”

Ricky also supports the Orpheum because of the importance it has for the city. “I am involved for two reasons. The first is as a board member I want to be engaged, the larger reason is that I understand the importance of the Orpheum Theatre Group in our community. The arts and arts education are a must for our community to continue to grow and build the diversity and education we need to advance,” he said. He shared that his support is rooted in his family life. “The Orpheum Theatre Group has been of huge importance to my family. My son grew his interest in theatre while attending summer camps and master programs as far back as 2005. He is now a professional actor and dancer living his dream in New York City,” Ricky said.

Bring your imagination and dancing shoes for this very sweet annual fundraiser, and be ready for an evening inspired by The Candy Man. “The theme of the Soiree is based on Willy Wonka, and you can expect to see ‘wonky’ treats. Food that is reinvented to be elegant and delicious with a whimsical and inventive twist,” Ricky hinted. To get your Golden Ticket to the Orpheum Soiree, visit

The Candy Man’s Chocolate Martini

2 tablespoons chocolate powder
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles (Willy might prefer rainbow sprinkles!)
4 ounces Baileys Irish Cream
4 ounces chocolate liqueur, plus 2 tablespoons
4 ounces vanilla vodka
Chill two martini glasses. Pour 2 tablespoons chocolate liqueur onto a shallow plate; chocolate powder onto another shallow plate, and sprinkles onto another. Dip glass into liqueur, then powder, then sprinkles. (Chocolate syrup is also an option, then drizzle the inside of each glass with syrup.) Combine Baileys, liqueur, and vodka in a large cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until chilled and thoroughly mixed. Top with shaved chocolate, or garnish with whipped cream, chocolate candies, or whatever your heart desires! Pour and enjoy!


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