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REVIEW: 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' at Academy of Music

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Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka and company. Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

The Candy Man is back!

 

Yes indeed, Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the classic novel, hit Broadway musical and motion picture(s) featuring the chronicles of young Charlie Bucket and ultimate chocolatier Willy Wonka, has made its way to Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, presented by The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

 

The elusive Willy Wonka, inventor of the world-renowned Everlasting Gobstopper, has come out of seclusion to offer a tour of his long-dormant chocolate factory to five Golden Ticket winners. The final winning ticket seems to have avoided young Charlie Bucket, a poverty-stricken 11-year old living with his mother and grandparents. Charlie, who wanders around the factory and seemingly annoying Wonka while buying moldy vegetables from Mrs. Green, eventually secures a Wonka Bar, which contains the fifth Golden Ticket.

 

Charlie decides to take his Grandpa Joe with him to the factory, joining a glutton (Augustus Gloop), a spoiled Russian (Veruca Salt), a gum-chewing diva (Violet Beauregarde) and a technology-obsessed malcontent (Mike Teavee). Will Charlie’s humble, unassuming nature prevail over his competition, who are all vying for a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolates (or are they?).

 

While stepping into the role once occupied by acting legends such as Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, Noah Weisberg, whose Broadway credits include South Pacific, Enron, Elf, and Legally Blonde, manages the delicate balance between Wonka’s natural snarkiness and indifference, and eventual empathy towards Charlie, played by the exceptional Henry Boshart—the show’s true standout.

 

As the down-on-his-luck Bucket, Boshart immediately captures the heart of the audience, and convinces you there’s nothing more you want to see than for him to get that Golden Ticket and somehow find a better life than he deserves for himself and his family. Other scene stealers include Clyde Voce as the conniving, yet humorous Mrs.Green, Matt Wood as the inquisitive and gourmandizing Augustus Gloop, James Young as Grandpa Joe, Amanda Rose as the understanding Mrs. Bucket, and Brynn Williams as celebrity-obsessed Violet Beauregarde.

 

Despite almost half a century since the release of the original motion picture in 1971, this modernized stage version, while considerably darker than previous adaptations (ie: the fate of Charlie’s four counterparts and an usually jarring scene featuring Veruca Salt and giant squirrels) manages to incorporate today’s trends (selfies and tablets) while still maintaining the magic of the book and spirit of the movie. Standout visuals include the Wonka candy display, scenes featuring the chocolate waterfall and ‘Chocolate Television.’ The choreography of the Oompa-Loompas is exceptional and head-turning, and the songwriters from Hairspray nicely adapt a new score to such classic songs from the original film as "Pure Imagination," "The Candy Man," and "I've Got a Golden Ticket."

 

No matter the adaptation, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remains a wonderful tale of magic, persistence and kindness that leaves children and adults alike in a state of pure imagination.

 

Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY will play the Academy of Music from Tuesday, November 6 - Sunday, November 18, 2018.

 

Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is produced by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures (Mark Kaufman), Langley Park Productions (Kevin McCormick) and Neal Street Productions (Sam Mendes, Caro Newling).

 

 For more information, visit www.CharlieOnBroadway.com

 

Photos:  Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka and company. Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

Thumbnail: Henry Boshart as Charlie Bucket and Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka. Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

Special thanks to Lisa Jefferson at Allied Global Marketing.