BWW Review: Hollywood Pantages Offers Pure Imagination with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
What an incredible week this has been! First Matilda the Musical and now Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both based on Roald Dahl's books. It most definitely is a world of pure imagination for kids of all ages. Currently at the Hollywood Pantages through April 14, The Chocolate Factory is a uniquely mesmerizing tale of little Charlie Bucket, who, like Matilda, is a genius; he can create something out of nothing.
Willy Wonka (Noah Weisberg) desperately wants an heir to his Chocolate Factory, so disguises himself and takes over a local store. His plan is to devise a contest in which five lucky young contestants will win a golden ticket, enclosed in a candy purchase, that will entitle them to visit the Chocolate Factory. Charlie (Henry Boshart, sharing the role with Collin Jeffery and Rueby Wood) is from an impoverished family and is the last to win. He is an adorable child who has always settled for a chocolate bar once a year on his birthday. In the contest, he finds himself competing against the Bavarian Beefcake fatty Augustus Gloop (Matt Wood), Veruca Salt, a selfish Russian ballerina (Jessica Cohen), Violet Beauregarde (Brynn Williams), an LA pop star with a humongous ego and Mike Teavee (Daniel Quadrino), a tech geek, all of whom do not deserve to work for the Chocolate Factory. They are selfish and self-absorbed. Sincere and creative Charlie is the only one who merits the attention..
Act Two is the most diabolical with each of the contestants facing their doom. It's murder pure and simple but we laugh uproariously when Augustus slides down the chocolate falls and gets fudged. or when Violet, who chews gum incessantly, chews a toxic substance that changes flavor and causes her body to expand until she blows up. And Mike? To be on TV, his size must be reduced to fit into the screen. It's all sick and violent, but we desperately want these losers out of the way so Charlie can win.
Under the brilliant direction of Jack O'Brien and aided by the magnificent choreography of Joshua Bergasse, the entire 36 member cast do triple threat work. Standouts include Weisberg as Willie Wonka, Boshart as the lovable Charlie, and James Young so delightful as Grandpa Joe, who has lived his whole life in a dream world and who willingly forces himself out of his deathbed to accompany Charlie on this precious journey. Also worthy of mention are Amanda Rose as the hard working and caring single mom Mrs. Bucket...and especially Madeleine Doherty as Mrs. Teavee who gets through her day with an excess of booze and pill popping. Doherty turns in an hysterically fun yet real and gritty performance.
Mark Thompson's scenic and costume design are vivid and glaringly colorful aided by the amazing background projections of Jeff Sugg. The chocolate factory would not come as vibrantly alive without them. Also credit perfect light design to Japhy Weideman and on.target sound to Andrew Keister.
David Greig's book is riveting and full of bizarre detail and Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman's additional music is upbeat and bright, accompanying Briscusse's and Newley's original tuneful hits "Pure Imagination" and "Candy Man" with delicious fervor.
Don't miss Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Hollywood Pantages through April 14 only! It will entertain you and make you feel compassionate toward the children you nurture to be the very best they can be.
(photo credit: Joan Marcus)