Fac­tory re­ject

NOW Magazine - - STAGE - MICHELLE DA SILvA

CHAR­LIE AND THE CHOCO­LATE FAC­TORY by David Greig, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Mirvish). At Princess of Wales The­atre (300 King West). To Jan­uary 6. $69$179. mirvish.com. See list­ing, this page. Rat­ing: NN Char­lie And The Choco­late Fac­tory has opened just in time for the hol­i­days, which makes sense since Roald Dahl wrote the chil­dren’s book over 50 years ago to teach read­ers not to be greedy.

Eleven-year-old Char­lie Bucket (on this night played by Rueby Wood) lives in poverty with his mother and four grand­par­ents. The kid is ob­sessed – of­ten, an­noy­ingly so – with Willy Wonka (Noah Weis­berg) choco­late bars, so lucky for him, he finds a “golden ticket” in a candy wrap­per one day. The show takes a while to get go­ing, with a lot of time spent in act one on just how poor the Buck­ets are. (One day, they scrounge to­gether enough coins to buy a mouldy head of cab­bage for din­ner.)

In­tro­duc­tions to sup­port­ing char­ac­ters – glut­tonous Au­gus­tus Gloop (Matt Wood), screen-ob­sessed Mike Teavee (Daniel Quadrino) and spoiled brats Veruca Salt (Jes­sica Co­hen) and Vi­o­let Beau­re­garde (Brynn Wil­liams), all played by adult ac­tors – fi­nally kick the mu­si­cal into high gear af­ter 30-odd min­utes of sappy, for­get­table songs.

The oom­pah More Of Him To Love sung by Au­gus­tus and his mother (Kathy Fitzger­ald) is one of the show’s more mem­o­rable num­bers, com­plete with leder­ho­sen-clad dancers and Joshua Ber­gasse’s lively chore­og­ra­phy. But for some un­nec­es­sary rea­son, Veruca Salt and her fa­ther are made to be heav­ily ac­cented Rus­sian vil­lains, while Vi­o­let is a bub­ble-gum-snap­ping Black “diva” from Cal­i­for­nia. If this is di­rec­tor Jack O’Brien’s at­tempt to di­ver­sify the stage, it feels forced and ul­ti­mately makes you won­der why nei­ther the Buck­ets nor Wonka are given cul­tur­ally stereo­typ­ing roles.

The parts of the mu­si­cal you may have guessed would be dis­turb­ing aren’t what you think: the Oompa Loompa are adorable and done clev­erly with­out the use of chil­dren or ver­ti­cally chal­lenged adults to achieve a fun op­ti­cal trick.

No, dis­tress comes in the form of Vi­o­let and Veruca’s deaths, who are blown up and dis­mem­bered, re­spec­tively. I can’t think of many mu­si­cals, es­pe­cially ones in­tended for fam­i­lies, that show this sort of thing so graph­i­cally. At the per­for­mance I at­tended, chil­dren in the au­di­ence screamed and there were au­di­ble gasps from adults.

This pro­duc­tion was cre­ated in the UK in 2013, so per­haps the Brits en­joy sub­ject­ing their kids to ul­tra-vi­o­lence on­stage. But when com­bined with the candy-coloured strobe lights used dur­ing the show and the sac­cha­rine songs with lyrics so earnest you’re guar­an­teed a toothache, it might just be too much.

Char­lie And The Choco­late Fac­tory adap­ta­tion is dis­turb­ing and cloy­ing.

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