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Review: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Sweetens the Scene at Clowes Memorial Hall

Now on stage at Clowes Memorial Hall staring Cody Garcia.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Non Eq)Nothing compares to the joy and freedom of pure imagination, and that is what CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY brings to the stage. It is an unbridled celebration of the enduring power of the
creative mind to make the world ever more expansive and astounding. And the greatest source of that power often is found in an unexpected place, like the mind of a child. You can never underestimate the value of a child's ability to make things new.

Celeste:

Summing up CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is really quite simple. It's fun! Too often as adults we want to take the world too seriously and everything feels urgent and dire and ominous. But when you witness something so purely ridiculous, frivolous, and joyous, you can remember for a moment what it was like to be a kid. When you're a kid, anything and everything seems possible, and the only limitations are the boundaries of your imagination.

This production offers a unique glimpse into the world of Willy Wonka and his fantastical creations. You may be wondering how a stage show can capture the whimsy and wonder of the film, but the sets are just as imaginative, and the use of a projection screen helps to create that all-encompassing ambience that you crave from the crazy chocolate factory. It also has some fun twists on the classic characters.

A clear standout in the cast was Coleman Simmons as Charlie Bucket. His omnipresent exuberance and unbridled joy burst from him in every scene, especially when he got to talk about Wonka and his creations. It's difficult for anyone to be a central focus of a production, but Coleman was steady through the whole performance. He embodied what it means to be a kid in a candy store.

The various couplings of children and parents were an ongoing source of hilarity and absurdity throughout the show. If you don't laugh uproariously at the Gloops, then your funny bone may be broken. Audrey Belle Adams as Mrs. Gloop and Nic Mains as her beloved son Augustus Gloop were a sight to behold. To paraphrase Mrs. Gloop, lots to love! It was also great fun to see Violet Beauregarde, played by Zakiya Baptiste, come to life as a modern young girl who is all about her social media presence. Mrs. Teavee, played by Katie Fay Francis, is also a treat to watch. She knew how to play up her life as an unhinged and drugged up drunk housewife, and it was both cringe-worthy and admirable.

You can't have CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY without the elusive and eccentric Willy Wonka. Cody Garcia was an excellent Candy Man, mixing things up. He did a great job balancing the light and dark humor in the show, so you didn't know whether to cringe or laugh or do something in between. In the end, it didn't matter because he helped to cast you under the spell of the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells that make up his zany factory.

Everyone deserves to treat themselves to a break from the ordinary and the everyday. Take the time to escape into the land of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Dance a conga line with the Oompa Loompas, taste the chocolate from the waterfall, and maybe visit the squirrels to see if you're a good nut or a bad nut. Whatever you like, you can find it in the land of delight at Wonka's Factory.

Dylan:

There are so many successful components to the hit Broadway touring musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, now at Clowes Memorial Hall. First, the show's composition by Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winner Marc Shaiman, and words by Grammy and Tony Award winners Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. Other than traditional toe-tapping tunes "Pure Imagination," "The Candy Man,", there are also new-to-Broadway songs including my favorite of the night, "A Letter from Charlie Bucket."

Three-time Tony Award-winning director Jack O'Brien kept this fast-paced show energetic with fully entertaining star Cody Garcia who plays the eccentric chocolate maker, Willy Wonka. I found that Garcia was not imitating Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp, rather he became a new version of an oddball man infusing humor that had me laughing out loud. We first met Wonka standing in front of his factory with chimneys releasing clouds of smoke created by a gifted effects team including five-time Tony Award nominee Scene Designer Mark Thompson, Projection Designer Jeff Sugg, and Special Effects Designer by Jeremy Chernick. This show honestly presented some of the best sets, lights, special effects, and projection that I have seen in a show.

The story is similar to the two films, weird Wonka's chocolate is starting to taste "dark and bitter", so he selects he to step down and find a new "candy man." His crazy, stunning, and enigmatic candy factory opens its gates to five unique lucky winners. The writers kept Roald Dahl's young Charlie Bucket (Coleman Simmons) similar to the film's character living with his delightful mother (Claire Leyden) and his four grandparents.

The writers did modernize the other four lucky winners, particularly Mike Teavee (Matthew Boyd Snyder) as a computer hacker and addicted gamer, winning his golden ticket by hacking into the contest. This actor with an attitude was particularly fun to watch as he slithered, spun, and tumbled about the stage. Mike's hilarious alcoholic mother Mrs. Teavee (Katie Fay Francis) also had us laughing in our seats, especially towards the end when her son's wish comes true.

Another showstopper is golden ticket winner Bavarian Augustus Gloop (Nic Mains) wearing lederhosen and a string of sausages around his neck. He and his mother Mrs. Gloop (Audrey Belle Adams) dance and sing along with the talented ensemble in the hilarious "More of Him to Love" musical number.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is playing at Clowes Memorial Hall until October 24th, so grab your tickets soon and take a wild ride into the world of pure imagination!



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