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Review: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at Lied Center For Performing Arts

Broadway is back in Lincoln and sweeter than ever!

Review: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at Lied Center For Performing Arts

Broadway is back in Lincoln and sweeter than ever with the current national touring production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory making a short stop to delight audiences of all ages.

The musical is based on the beloved children's book written by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was adapted into two major motion pictures prior to this musical adaptation. With a book by David Greig, and featuring music and lyrics by the dynamic duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the brilliant musical minds behind other smash hits including the Tony Award winning musical Hairspray, the bar was set before the curtain ever rose.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory boasts an imaginative set, an enjoyable script with jokes that resonate no matter the age, and a solid musical score that lends a helping hand to creating the world of Wonka. I can't say I walked away from the theatre Thursday night humming any of the tunes in the show, but they work for the production. The harmonies are enjoyable and at times even thrilling in act one, but the music takes a turn in act two and almost seems like a separately written score in some ways. The first act features numbers for the golden ticket winners and their families, as well as the hardworking ensemble who play multiple characters throughout the show. The second act, however, heavily disregards the ticket winner voices from act one and focuses primarily on those of the Oompa Loompas and Willy Wonka. I thoroughly enjoyed act one, but act two left me wanting. I missed the excitement and grand numbers of act one, and I expected more magic surrounding the mishaps that occur at Wonka's throughout the tour. With that being said, it is still beautiful to witness.

What really drove the show for me Thursday evening was the talented cast on stage Thursday evening. Cody Garcia was a delight as the man of the hour, Willy Wonka. His vocals were impressive, with a soothing tone and extensive range. His character was enough of an ode to those who came before, while still allowing him to make his own mark as Wonka and leave the audiences in stitches with his line delivery and mannerisms. He is a solid choice to lead this cast on stage nightly. But Wonka wouldn't work without a Charlie Bucket of equal talent and skill, and director Matt Lenz found that in Kai Edgar, the Charlie on for Thursday evenings opening performance. Kai's vocal control is something most performers spend years trying to hone, and his upper register was simply pure and not strained in the least, as was shown through the glorious vibrato ringing through the house during his true highlight number, "Willy Wonka! Willy Wonka!"

Rounding out the other two leading players in Charlie's family are Claire Leyden and Steve McCoy as Mrs. Bucket and Grandpa Joe respectively. They both were lovely to watch, with McCoys humor resonating greatly with the younger audience and Leydens motherly approach permeating kindness even to the back of the theater. Both have strong voices and very likable characters.

But what is the story of Willy Wonka And Charlie Bucket without the other four recipients of those highly sought after golden tickets? The introduction of the ticket winners was a highlight for me, with each recipient and their guardian being showcased in their own song. Standouts on Thursday evening were Camryn Hampton, who brilliantly stepped in as gum popping sensation Violet Beauregarde for the evening, and Kaitie Faye Francis, who made me laugh out loud more than once with her brilliant portrayal of Mrs. Teavee. Both performers have such strong and well developed characters and incredible voices that just about made me get out of my chair and cheer.

While the musical does have some small misses in my opinion, it would be a big miss for Lincoln audiences to not take a chance on this colorful and enjoyable production. The set and costumes are lovely. The cast is wonderfully talented. And the script is fun for families, both young and young at heart. Don't miss your chance to grab your very own golden ticket and visit the wonders of Wonka's world famous chocolate factory as the Lied Performing Arts Center presents the national touring production of the popular Broadway hit, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Production Photo by Jeremy Daniel

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