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Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Amelia Orozco
2018-10-10

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By Roald Dahl ( original novel ),

David Grieg ( book ), Marc Sharman ( music and lyrics ) and Scott Witt ( lyrics ). At: Oriental Theater, 24 W. Randolph St. Tickets: $27-$95; BroadwayInChicago.com . Runs through: Oct. 21

Liquid chocolate may inspire erotic fantasies. But the newest musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory strikes that and reverses it, delivering a production filled with heartfelt, wholesome moments.

Dahl's children's classic is no stranger to adaptation: The 1971 movie version starred Gene Wilder as the candy man Willy Wonka; in 2005, Johnny Depp took on the role amid Oompa Loompas ( Wonka's factory workers ) with steampunk attire that would fit in at Burning Man.

Directed by Jack O'Brien, the new stage production ( book by David Grieg, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Witt ) of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory captures Dahl's original nuggets of goodness, albeit with a techy twist.

The stage is a world of wonders and confectionary surprises. The delectable treats serve their purpose in exposing the ugliness of gluttony. The Oompa Loompas are half-body puppets designed with cartoonish effect by Basil Twist. Joshua Bergasse's choreography ( for both puppets and people ) in this highly mixture of human talent, technology and chocolate is to be lauded.

Like the book, the plot follows a group of "golden ticket" winners—impoverished, noble Charlie Bucket and a group of insufferable children—as they tour Wonka's factory.

Augustus Gloop ( Matt Wood ) gorges unabashedly at Willy's many edible delights, hardly believing marshmallows and a chocolate river are free for the taking. Veruca Salt ( Jessica Cohen ) is the bratty Russian princess that dances circles around her daddy ( Nathaniel Hackmann ), who gives her whatever her little heart desires. ( It's a treat seeing Cohen's ballet skills, which include a number with the giant squirrels. )

But it is Golden Ticket winners Violet Beauregarde ( Brynn Williams ) and Mike Teavee ( Daniel Quadrino ) and their more tech-savvy world that bring this story to the 21st century. Violet's desire to really pop comes true after she ingests forbidden fruit—er, gum—that is supposed to replace a full meal. Her agent-dad ( David Samuel ) is the quintessential dance mom, showcasing his little Hollywood starlet on Twitter and Instagram—at least until she really starts blowing up.

Mike Teavee is a moody kid permanently attached to his earphones, eyes glued to video games. He all but shoots the middle finger to his mom ( Madeline Doherty ), a self-medicated 50s-era housewife swilling "grown-up" juice to cope with her little man. ( Keep a close eye on Mike to see how the brilliant tech work in this production made the audience gasp on opening night. )

Each child demise is proof that too much of one thing is like too much marzipan—sweet at first, but cloyingly nauseating after too much.

The final golden ticket goes, of course, to Charlie. His mom ( Amanda Rose ) works to provide with a song in her heart and a skip in her step despite the family's gray-hand-beige existence and cabbage-heavy diet. The Buckets are poor, but it's not just poverty or old age that keeps Charlie's grandparents in bed throughout the story—it's their lack of hope. As in Dahl's original book, Grandpa Joe ( James Young ) as springs back to life and is Charlie's chum and crusader throughout the magical journey.

Their adventure—filled with Charlie's innocence and Mr. Wonka's unapologetic demeanor— are just the right combination of sweet and sour in a stay-on-your-toes-or-you'll-miss-it production of a favorite classic.


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