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BWW Review: Enter a World of Pure Imagination with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at Broadway Sacramento

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Playing through January 2

BWW Review: Enter a World of Pure Imagination with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at Broadway Sacramento

That crazy, crafty confectioner is at it again. This time in the new musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, playing through January 2 at the newly revamped Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center. That's right, Willy Wonka is back with his national tour that was put on pause, and he's ready to make all your candy dreams come true.

Having seen the movies, the children's musical, and read the book by Roald Dahl, I was expecting something very different than what greeted me with the tour. Dahl's dark humor still comes through, although now it incorporates some modern twists in a bright, buoyant setting.

For those not familiar with the story, chocolatier Willy Wonka devises a contest to bring life to his tired sweets factory. He will place golden tickets in five candy bars, which will gain the winner entry to his factory and a chance at a grand prize. One by one, the winners are announced via television, each one less palatable than the last. The edacious Augustus Gloop (Nic Mains), connoisseur of sausages and consumer of whatever his mother (Audrey Belle Adams) hilariously spoon feeds him, cannot wait to get his mouth on whatever lies beyond the golden doors. Veruca Salt (Angela Palladini), who has never heard the word "no" from her father (Scott Fuss), can't imagine not being allowed to do whatever she wishes despite Wonka's protestations. Violet Beauregarde (Zakiya Baptiste), who is now a social media star thanks to her Kevin Hart-lookalike dad (Domanick Anton Hubbard at that performance), never met a piece of gum she could resist. Mike Teavee (Matthew Boyd Snyder), now embodying every teenage boy in America, can't stop staring at screens. Smartphone, video games, television, and all of it being encouraged by his pill-popping, booze-binging, codependent mom (Katie Fay Francis).

The final winner, however, is a little different. A wide-eyed and humble Charlie Bucket (played by an endearing Coleman Simmons) cannot believe his luck. Stuck in a shack with his mother and four grandparents who never leave their shared bed, Charlie is relegated to eating rotten cabbage soup every night with a yearly treat of a Wonka bar on his birthday. After his birthday chocolate fails to yield a golden ticket, he spontaneously splurges on another bar and finds himself a winner. Miraculously, this also cures his Grandpa Joe (Steve McCoy) of whatever has ailed his legs for the past 40 years and now he can accompany Charlie to Mr. Wonka's factory.

This is where the going gets good. "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen" makes you anticipate the magic that lies beyond the front doors of the factory and took me back to my childhood, when my most fervent wish was to win the Toys R Us $500 grand prize sweepstakes. Upon entry, we are treated to a "sugar-coated Shangri La", where the scene rivals an old-fashioned Disney diorama. "The Oompa Loompa Song" with surprising, brilliantly simple puppetry was a crowd-pleasing favorite. This is also where Willy Wonka (Cody Garcia) steps on the gas and shows us what he can do. By turns sarcastic, witty, purposefully obtuse, and always energetic, Garcia is pure entertainment with numbers like "Strike That, Reverse It" and "Pure Imagination." His indifference as his contestants are systematically removed (a reminder of the pitfalls of the seven deadly sins) is both shocking and amusing. Conversely, as the show comes to an end, he shares a tender moment with Charlie ("The View From Here") and one can forget all that came before. All that matters is the future and hope and love. And the magic of pure imagination.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory plays at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center through January 2. More information can be found at BroadwaySacramento.com or by calling (916) 557-1999.

Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel


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