I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but when the opportunity arrived to review the Broadway musical, I figured what the hell, let’s give it a whirl! I’m beyond happy I did because Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical is hand down one of the best productions I have ever been to.
Taking place at the Hollywood Pantages for a three-week limited run, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical is a modernized rendition of the beloved Roald Dahl book which was eventually made into two movies, the first one starring Gene Wilder in the iconic role of Willy Wonka. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical, Willy Wonka is opening his marvelous and mysterious chocolate factory…to a lucky few. That includes Charlie Bucket, whose bland life is about to burst with color and confection beyond his wildest dreams. He and four other golden ticket winners will embark on a mesmerizing joyride through a world of pure imagination. Get ready to experience the wonders of Wonka like never before – including Oompa-Loompas, incredible inventions, the great glass elevator, and more, more, more!
First things first, we must talk about the phenomenal production design of this show. I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially considering I had just seen CATS which utilized a static backdrop with props to highlight certain moments. This was not the case with Charlie, as viewers got the chance to see everything from Charlie Bucket’s home to the famed Chocolate Factory. The set design really elevated the entire design of the show, especially with the use of neon colors and bright lights. This wasn’t just in terms of the production; however, as a lot of our characters utilized these fluorescent colors in their clothing and appearance. The production as a whole had a very energized feel to it which kept the audience glued to the show and the unfolding narrative. I also appreciated how this iteration was more geared towards modern society, especially in regards to how much social media and smartphones take over our lives, so much so that we miss out on all the beauty around us.
Creativity is definitely at the forefront of this show and is highlighted when Charlie and the other four kids visit the Chocolate Factory. We’ve all seen the film adaptations of the book and are familiar with the characters Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee but seeing them live on stage and watching what eventually happens to them was such a trip. I never thought seeing life-size squirrels annihilating Veruca Salt would be so terrifying but here we are! The creativity shown in this production is unparalleled and it made me think that those responsible for the design were having a grand time coming up with these ideas. As someone who is slightly terrified of Oompa-Loompas I have to admit that the way in which the designers came up with their ideas in showcasing them was not only hilarious but ingenious. The creativity in this show is bursting at the seams, almost as if it were Violet Beauregarde, resulting in a beautiful cacophony of colors and sounds.
In regards to the acting, it was absolutely superb. Though there are three kids that rotate in the role of Charlie Bucket, Henry Boshart, who we saw, was phenomenal. His performance was heartwarming and genuine, making it hard not to fall in love with the purity and innocence that his character exudes. It really puts into perspective the behavior of those of us who are lucky enough to have the finer things in life, especially when you see the juxtaposition between Charlie and the other kids. Then there is the man himself, Willy Wonka, played brilliantly by Broadway veteran Noah Weisberg (read our interview with him HERE). What I loved so much about his performance was his ability to make the character his own without relying on Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp’s rendition. Weisberg is both caring and snarky, something that can be a bit jarring at first but when you see why he’s the way he is it all makes sense. As for the supporting cast, I thought all those involved did a wonderful job of portraying the additional kids (and their subsequent parents) who enter Wonka’s factory. Even though each kid gets what’s coming to them, it’s still hard not to see a piece of ourselves in each one of them.
In all, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical is an absolute must-see. It’s the perfect show for both adults, who will pick up on the more developed humor, as well as for kids who will enjoy the songs and the more slapstick moments of comedy. Surprisingly, there are a few moments of “horror” that play out in a darkly comedic way and will be a good reminder for children to listen to adults when they tell you not to do something. I mean, who wants to be ripped to shreds by nefarious squirrels? I don’t! Since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory only has a three-week run, you’ll want to get tickets before it’s too late, so make sure you visit the Hollywood Pantages website HERE to purchase and/or inquire about additional information.